Russian President Vladimir Putin has been sworn in for a second term in office, pledging to protect and uphold Russia's Constitution, and the human and civil rights of the nation's citizens. Mr. Putin was re-elected in March to a second four-year term, his last under the Constitution.

Moments after the noon bells rang out from the clock tower atop the Kremlin, President Putin placed his right hand on a special leather-bound edition of Russia's Constitution to take the presidential oath for the second time in four years.

In a nationally televised broadcast of the ceremonies from inside the Grand Kremlin Palace, President Putin pledged to serve the country faithfully.

In brief inaugural remarks that followed, Mr. Putin promised to work, ?actively, openly and honestly to improve the lives of ordinary Russians.?

Mr. Putin also spoke about the need to develop political pluralism in Russia, an apparent reference to recent criticism from the political opposition and the West that Russia is moving in an autocratic, rather than democratic, direction. He said Russia must have a wide base of political support in order to continue democratic reforms.

President Putin added that the success and development of Russia cannot depend on one person, or one single political party.

However, Russia's political opposition and some in the West say that is exactly the situation in Russia, following December's parliamentary elections, which gave the pro-Kremlin United Russia party a huge majority in the powerful lower house of parliament, the Duma.

Those gains were further solidified March 14, with President Putin's landslide re-election victory. According to official results, Mr. Putin received more than 70 percent of the vote, while none of his opponents received more than 15 percent. Both elections were criticized for alleged media bias in favor of President Putin and his allies.

After the ceremony, the Russian president strode back down the red carpet of the gilded hall to the applause of onlookers from among the political and foreign elite to oversee a goose-stepping military parade in his honor on the grounds of the Kremlin.

The president was also given a 30-gun salute.