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Putin steps up to run a vastly changed Russia (+video)

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Moscow on lock-down

Despite the fact that Moscow's city center was firmly locked down Monday by thousands of elite riot troops, several hundred protesters managed to gather in flash mobs along the route of Putin's motorcade and, in one case, near the gates of the Kremlin itself, to shout their disapproval of Putin's return to power.

Police said 120 were arrested. That comes on the heels of a mass protest yesterday of about 20,000 people, which ended in violent clashes with police and hundreds of arrests.

"When Medvedev was inaugurated four years ago, I noticed police made major efforts to clear the city of people. I put that down to Medvedev's lack of self-confidence," says Gleb Pavlovsky, head of the Effective Policy Foundation, and a key political adviser to Putin during his first two terms. "But today they swept the whole city center clean. I wasn't even allowed to go shopping. Maybe the Kremlin team is feeling isolated and defensive after Sunday's events, which could have ended in real bloodshed."

Putin's 'return'

During his first two terms Putin oversaw an impressive national renewal, including rapid economic growth, a fourfold increase in average incomes, a reversal of the 1990s' social decline and even a slowdown of the disastrous demographic collapse that threatens to depopulate whole areas of the country in coming decades.

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