Kremlin witnesses an eilte gathering as Putin prepares for inauguration pageantry

Among the first arrivals captured by cameras at Kremlin were prominent Putin allies like former president and prime minister Dmitry Medvedev and the leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov.

Kremlin saw Russia’s ruling class descend on Tuesday morning ahead of the ornate inauguration ceremony where Vladimir Putin will be officially sworn in for an unprecedented 5th term as president.

Among the first arrivals captured by cameras were prominent Putin allies like former president and prime minister Dmitry Medvedev and the leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov. They joined a stream of Cabinet ministers, parliamentarians, and other elite figures making their way into the Grand Kremlin Palace ahead of the scheduled noon kickoff.

The tightly choreographed pageantry is meant to put Putin’s commanding grip on power on full display after his re-election in March with 77% of the vote. From the red-carpeted courtyard where he’ll arrive by presidential limousine to the chandeliered halls of the 19th-century palace hosting the swearing-in, every detail aims to glorify Putin’s new 6-year mandate.

“You’ll see all the former and current elites there – the oligarchs, regional bosses, security chiefs,” said one Moscow political analyst. “This is Putin’s victory lap before that crowd, the people who have been enriched and empowered by his system of personalized rule.”

Expected attendees include stalwart Putin backers like Security Council chairman Nikolai Patrushev and billionaire business moguls like Vladimir Potanin and Oleg Deripaska. Also slated to join is Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko, highlighting Putin’s efforts to project Russian dominance over the region.

Notably absent will be any world leaders from Western nations that have shunned and sanctioned Putin over his invasion of Ukraine. China’s Xi Jinping, a key Putin partner, is sending Vice President Wang Qishan in what some observers see as a deliberate snub.

While the Kremlin hopes the imagery and spectacle reaffirms Putin’s stranglehold on power, protests are planned in Moscow and other cities to decry the stage-managed process and lack of real opposition. Police have already shut down much of the Russian capital’s centre in anticipation of disruptions.

As Russia’s pandemic and economic pressures mount, Putin may seek to use his renewed coronation to rally his power base and signal continuity. But with bellicose rhetoric against the West and no exit ramp from Ukraine, his new term looks aimed at decisively doubling down on confrontation.