Isolated From West, Putin Projects Domestic Power at Inauguration

Vladimir V. Putin was inaugurated for a fifth term as president on Tuesday in a ceremony filled with pageantry and a televised church service, as the Russian leader tried once more to depict his invasion of Ukraine as a religiously righteous mission that is part of “our 1,000-year history.”

Mr. Putin took the presidential oath — he swore to “respect and safeguard the rights and freedoms of man and citizen” — with his hand on a red-bound copy of Russia’s constitution, the 1993 document that guarantees many of the democratic rights that he has spent much of his 25-year rule rolling back.

Mr. Putin claimed his fifth term in March in a rubber-stamp election that Western nations dismissed as a sham. If he serves the full six years of his new term, he will become the longest serving Russian leader since Empress Catherine the Great in the 19th century.

“Together, we will be victorious!” Mr. Putin said at the end of a speech after he took the oath in the Kremlin’s gilded St. Andrew’s Hall.

Afterward, in a departure from the broadcast of Mr. Putin’s 2018 inauguration, state television showed a service inside the Kremlin’s Cathedral of the Annunciation that was led by Patriarch Kirill I, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. He blessed Mr. Putin as the president stood, looking on, occasionally bowing and crossing himself — a scene that underscored the Kremlin’s intensifying efforts to give a religious sheen to Mr. Putin’s rule.

“The head of state must sometimes make fateful and fearsome decisions,” the patriarch said, in what appeared to be attempt to frame Mr. Putin’s invasion as justified before God. “And if such a decision is not made, the consequences can be extremely dangerous for the people and the state. But these decisions are almost always associated with victims.”

Mr. Putin offered no new policy details in his speech, even though analysts expect him to make some changes to the makeup of his government later this week. He also said nothing about the tactical nuclear weapons drills that his military announced on Monday, a move that highlighted Mr. Putin’s continued attempts to pressure the West to relent in its support of Ukraine.

“We do not reject dialogue with Western states,” Mr. Putin said in his speech, repeating his call for talks that many critics see as tantamount to a demand for capitulation by the West and Ukraine.

“I will repeat that talks, including on issues of strategic stability, are possible,” he added, referring to arms-control negotiations with the United States that have been stalled since Russia launched its invasion more than two years ago. “But only on equal terms, respecting each other’s interests.”

Isolated from the West after more than two years since launching the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022 and under indictment by the International Criminal Court, Mr. Putin is projecting a power domestically that seems stronger than ever.

“Our president has the highest powers, more than the American president and even the Russian czar,” said Gennady A. Zyuganov, the leader of Russia’s Communist Party, as he arrived at the ceremony in the Kremlin. “A lot depends on him.”

More than 2,000 government officials, prominent supporters and loyal administrators who are part of Russia’s institutions in occupied Ukraine gathered to witness the tightly stage-managed inauguration.

Mr. Putin’s preordained election in March delivered him more than 87 percent of the vote, according to Russian election officials, with almost 80 percent turnout.

As supporters assembled, they all shared a message demonstrating Mr. Putin’s iron grip on their loyalty: that he would keep Russia stable, strong and peaceful.

Among the first to arrive was the American actor Steven Seagal, who said of Russia’s future that, “With President Putin, it will be the best.”

Mr. Putin pronounced the brief oath standing next to Valery Zorkin, the head of the Constitutional Court — a body that has steadfastly upheld Mr. Putin’s rollback of the democratic rights.

All legitimate opposition politicians have been jailed. The most prominent, Aleksei A. Navalny, died in suspicious circumstances in a penal colony in the Arctic Circle in February.

His widow, Yulia Navalnaya, condemned Mr. Putin’s inauguration Tuesday in a video posted on YouTube on Tuesday morning,

“Our country is being led by a liar, a thief and a murderer,” said Ms. Navalnaya, who lives outside of Russia. “But this will definitely come to an end.”

As in the past, the tightly scripted state television broadcast melded ceremonial pomp and a depiction of Mr. Putin as a humble, workmanlike leader. Before the ceremony, Mr. Putin was shown getting up from his desk, casually flipping through a sheaf of paper, walking down long and narrow corridors, passing uniformed guards and stepping into a Russian-made limousine that carried him across the Kremlin grounds.

Ivan Nechepurenko contributed reporting.

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