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Lone Rider: Putin Inauguration Motorcade Through Empty Moscow Unlikely, Kremlin Hints

Vladimir Putin's motorcade travels through deserted Moscow streets on the way to the Russian president's inauguration in May 2012.

When Vladimir Putin was shuttled to his inauguration by motorcade through the emptied-out center of Moscow in May 2012, some observers likened the scene to something out of a post-apocalyptic movie. Others said it showed Putin's remoteness from the citizens he was to govern for a third term as president.

"It is deeply symbolic that Putin's inauguration motorcade traveled through a deserted Moscow purged of people," the late opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who was shot dead near the Kremlin almost three years later, wrote at the time. "Where are the millions of adoring fans, where is the festive mood, where is the joy on voters' faces?"

Ahead of Putin's May 7 inauguration for a fourth term, it looks like he might scrap the convoy this time around.

"This time it's possible they will forgo the president's ceremonial motorcade through Moscow to the Kremlin," the state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported on May 3, quoting an unidentified source familiar with the planning of the ceremony.

Vladimir Putin takes the oath of office during his inauguration in 2012.
Vladimir Putin takes the oath of office during his inauguration in 2012.

Putin's 2012 inauguration came a day after street clashes in Moscow triggered the arrest and prosecution of more than two dozen opposition protesters angry over Putin's return to the Kremlin for a third term after a four-year hiatus as prime minister.

Opposition leader Aleksei Navalny is now calling on followers to stage street protests on May 5.

Navalny and other Kremlin opponents denounce Putin's reelection as a stage-managed coronation rather than a democratic ballot. The Kremlin calls Putin's landslide victory on March 18 an overwhelming demonstration of his mandate.

Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters in Moscow this week that the final details of the inauguration were still being worked out, and that it would largely resemble "the traditional ceremony that we have," Russian news agencies reported.

But he indicated that Putin might not repeat the solitary journey through the empty capital in a limousine surrounded by police motorcycles as he did six years ago. One YouTube user posted a video of that ride set to music from the 2002 zombie-apocalypse film 28 Days Later.

Russian news outlets and Dozhd TV cited unidentified sources as saying on May 4 that the Kremlin was seeking to stage a more low-key inauguration this time around.

Peskov noted that in 2012 Putin was serving as prime minister while his hand-picked predecessor, Dmitry Medvedev, was finishing up his four-year term as president.

"Don't forget that last time [Putin] was moving from the White House to the Kremlin," Peskov said, referring to the seat of the Russian government located 3 kilometers from the Kremlin.

"Now there is no need for such a transfer," he added.

Peskov said that "of course, a motorcade will be used in some capacity," because Putin will be taken from the Kremlin offices to the ceremony at the Grand Kremlin Palace -- a two-minute drive or a five-minute walk.

"But how ceremonial it will be, all of these nuances are currently being worked out," Peskov said.

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    Carl Schreck

    Carl Schreck is an award-winning investigative journalist who serves as RFE/RL's enterprise editor. He has covered Russia and the former Soviet Union for more than 20 years, including a decade in Moscow. He has led investigations into corruption, cronyism, and disinformation campaigns in Russia and Central Asia, as well as on poisoning attacks against Kremlin opponents and assassinations of Iranian exiles in the West. Schreck joined RFE/RL in 2014.