President Vladimir PUTIN:
Esteemed citizens of Russia, dear friends!
I am addressing you today, you specifically, because you have entrusted me with the highest government post in the country. I understand that I have taken on a great responsibility, and I know that in Russia the head of state has always been and will always be the person who is responsible for everything in the country. The first President of Russia, Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin, recalled this today, as he leaves the Kremlin, with words that many will remember. He repeated today in this hall: Take care of Russia. This is precisely what I see as the primary responsibility of the President. I will require that my comrades in arms and my colleagues fulfill this duty. I also expect to get help in this patriotic effort from the citizens of Russia and from all those who hold dear the future of our Motherland.
Today I would also like to thank my supporters, everybody who voted for me in this election. You have supported the initial steps that have already been made. You believed that together we can change our life for the better. I am deeply grateful to you for this. But I understand that your support is only an advance [of trust] to the authorities in general and, obviously, to me, the one being inaugurated today.
I am also addressing the people who voted for other candidates. I am confident that you cast your votes for our common future, our common aims, for a better life, for a prosperous and strong Russia. Each of us has his own experience, his own views, but we must be together, we have a great deal to do in concert.
Today truly is a historic day; I want to draw attention to this once more. Really, for the first time in Russia’s history, power is being transferred in the most democratic and simplest way, by the will of the people, legally and peacefully. The transfer of power is always a test of constitutional order, a test of its durability. This is not the first test and, obviously, it will not be the last, but this challenge we have met, this boundary in our lives we have crossed. We have proved that Russia is becoming a modern democratic state. The peaceful succession of power is a critical element of the political stability of which we dreamed, to which we aspired, which we strived to achieve.
The road to a free society has been neither smooth nor simple. We have both tragic and great chapters in our history. The construction of a democratic state is far from complete, but many things have been achieved. We must guard what we have gained, we must protect and promote democracy, we must make sure that the authorities elected by the people serve the people’s interests, protect Russian citizens everywhere – both inside and outside the country – and serve the public. This is a principled, staunch position that I have defended and will continue to defend.
For today’s grand occasion we have gathered here in the Kremlin, a place that is sacred to our people. The Kremlin is a focal point of our national heritage. Here, within the walls of the Kremlin, the history of our nation has been made for centuries, and we have no right to be ‘Ivans who don’t remember their predecessors.’ We must not forget anything, we must know our history, know it the way it was and learn its lessons; we must always remember the people who created the Russian state, defended its honor and made it a great, powerful and mighty state. We will cherish this memory, and we will maintain this link between eras, and we will pass on the best of our history to our descendants.
Esteemed citizens of Russia!
We have faith in our potential, we have faith in our ability to truly reform and transform the country. We have common aims, we want our Russia to be a free, prosperous, strong and civilized country, a country that its citizens are proud of and that is respected internationally. In recent months, both in Moscow and during meetings in Russia’s regions, I have felt your understanding and your support. And very often I have heard from people — from ordinary people, on the squares and streets of our cities — very simple words that are nonetheless very important to me. People have said to me: ‘We believe you, we’re counting on you; just watch you don’t trick us. ’
I can assure you that my work will be guided solely by the interests of the state. Perhaps it will not be possible to avoid mistakes, but what I can promise and what I do promise is that I will work openly and honestly.
I consider it to be my sacred duty to unify the people of Russia, to rally citizens around clear aims and tasks, and to remember every day and every minute that we have one Motherland, one people and one future.