Vladimir Putin was sworn in as Russian president on Monday in a glittering Kremlin ceremony that took place less than 24 hours after protesters opposed to his rule had battled police in downtown Moscow, according to RIA Novosti.

“I swear on the power invested in my as president of the Russian Federation to respect and protect the rights and freedom of its citizens,” Putin said, his right hand placed on a red-bound copy of the Russian Constitution.

Russia’s nuclear suitcase was handed over to Putin immediately after his inauguration.

Putin’s motorcade had sped through empty streets locked down by a heavy security presence on its way to the Kremlin State Palace, where some 2,000 guests had gathered to witness his inauguration for a six-year term. Those assembled included Putin’s handpicked successor, Dmitry Medvedev, and Patriarch Kirill, head of Russia’s powerful Orthodox Church.

Police made a number of arrests as some 150 protesters protested Putin’s return to the presidency a short walk from the Kremlin, Russia media said.

“We are entering a new stage of national development,” Putin said. “We want to live in a democratic country…in a successful Russia.”

Putin was forced to step down in 2008 by a Constitution that forbids more than two subsequent terms, but is silent on further periods in office. He shifted to the post of prime minister after installing Medvedev in the Kremlin, but remained by far Russia’s most powerful politician.

Marc Bennetts, RIA Novosti