The Olympic flame has arrived in Moscow ahead of the 2014 Winter Games scheduled for February in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
The silver-and-red torch was flown into a Moscow airport on October 6, before a motorcade accompanied it to Red Square for a cauldron-lighting ceremony overseen by President Vladimir Putin.
The flame later set out on a ceremonial loop through the Kremlin before it begins its official journey across Russia.
"It is quite logical that Russians love sports so much and appreciate everything that has anything to do with it," Putin said in his speech broadcast live across the nation. "Without such active and engaged support by the public, citizens of Russia, it would have been impossible to implement gigantic sports projects. The Sochi Olympics has really become our common dream that is now turning into reality."
Putin said that during the 123-day torch relay, one could "see the achievements of the multiethnic society." "Common goals unite our people who are proud of the great nation whose values are based on fairness, mutual assistance, support, openness, and friendship, respect, equality, and diversity" he added.
Speaking during a ceremony earlier in the day at Moscow's Vnukovo Airport after descending from the plane with the flame, First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak described the day as "historic."
"The very process of preparing for the Olympic Games has been the unifying start for all of the citizens of Russia," Kozak said. "It has given a powerful impulse for the transformation of the most varied aspects of our lives."
The torch was lit in Greece's Ancient Olympia on September 29 and handed over to a Russian delegation in Athens on October 5.
The torch relay will kick off on October 7 with five-time Olympic synchronized swimming gold medalist Anastasia Davydova,and conclude when the cauldron is lit at Sochi's Olympic Stadium at the Games' opening ceremony on February 7.
More than 14,000 runners are to cover 65,000 kilometers as they wind their way across Russia's 83 regions. The relay will see the flame travel to the bottom of Lake Baikal, the North Pole, and outer space for the first time.
Based on reporting by AFP, AP, dpa, and ITAR-TASS