… in the Kremlin, 2,000 dignitaries [including "close friend," the former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi] applauded Putin’s every step down the red carpet into a vast hall with gilded columns, the throne room of tsars, where he was sworn in with his right hand resting on the red-bound Russian constitution.
“We will achieve our goals if we are a single, united people, if we hold our fatherland dear, strengthen Russian democracy, constitutional rights and freedoms,”
[Putin] took his place under a huge gilded sunburst, the “All-Powerful Eye,” which was hung so it could cast its rays onto the throne of the czar.
Outside the Kremlin walls, Mr. Putin announced his return in another way. The police swept boulevards and squares, detaining anyone they saw wearing white ribbons, the symbol adopted by anti-Putin activists.
Riot police officers in camouflage charged into cafes and restaurants in search of protesters, in one spot sending cups and glasses flying. Once in police custody, scores of young men were referred to military draft offices.
…Police officers in riot gear charged into the crowd trying to drag out people they thought had pelted them with smoke bombs and rocks, and beat them fiercely with nightsticks.
Mr. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, responded by saying that the police reaction was too gentle and that he would have liked to see them crack down harder.