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Russia swears in Putin as new president
MOSCOW -- Vladimir Putin was sworn in as Russia's second democratically elected president Sunday.
Former KGB officer Putin, 47, faces the challenge restoring national pride and economic health after decades of decline.
As late as a day before taking the solemn oath of office in the Grand Kremlin Palace, Putin had given few clues about what reforms he will carry out, though he has pledged to keep the country on a market-oriented path.
Boris Yeltsin, who handed over power to Putin four months ago, played a key role in the inauguration ceremony.
Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev also was invited, in a clear effort to stress continuity of power in Russia, which has experienced two coup attempts in the last 10 years.
Putin taking tough line on Chechnya
Putin, elected March 26, has acted tough in fighting separatist rebels in the southern region of Chechnya, but so far he has made no radical moves on the economic front.
He appointed outspoken liberal Andrei Illarionov as his economic adviser, but the shape of the new government will be more indicative of how he hopes to sustain a recovery that has been triggered by strong world market prices for Russia's main exports and by the 1998 devaluation of the ruble.
Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexiy II urged Putin on Saturday to heal social and economic ills without haste and taking into account the age-old traditions of the country.
"In the past few years we have too often believed that fast decisions were the right decisions," Alexiy said in a statement. "We need to make our plans for decades ahead and also look back into past ages."
Economic plan being formulated
Some of Putin's pro-Western critics say the former spy, handpicked by Yeltsin, is a puppet in the hands of Yeltsin's entourage and that no changes should be expected. "Power in the Kremlin will remain in the same hands," commented the daily Sevodnya.
Critics say the new Kremlin leader is more likely to waste the current relatively favorable economic situation by concentrating on consolidating his political power rather than starting badly needed structural reforms.
Putin's economic plans are still being worked on by a specially created think-tank, but his statements so far have suggested he will seek to tackle the lack of discipline and poor management that have plagued the economy for years.
He also has pleased foreign investors by calling for fair competition in business and protection of investors' rights.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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