Dmitry Medvedev is to shadow his long-time mentor Vladimir Putin down the red carpet Wednesday to the Kremlin's throne where he will be sworn in as Russia's new president, reported dpa.
The elaborate but fast-forward ceremony has been carefully choreographed in a microcosm of the Kremlin's phased transition of power over the last year of Putin's rule.
Russian state television began live broadcasts of the hour-long event at 11:40 am (0740 GMT) with a bird's eye view of the black- windowed limousines speeding down vacated boulevards to the Kremlin's ornate gates.
A presidential spokesman said the inauguration of Russia's third president would follow the same protocol as in 2004, 2000 and 1996, starting with a presentation of the Russian flag, presidential standard and constitution in the gilded Georgievsky Hall.
But the politicians, tycoons and foreign leaders comprising the 2,400 VIP guests are likely to be straining eyes and ears toward Putin's opening speech and Medvedev's reactions for any indication of who will rule over Russia's 1.3-trillion-dollar economy and resurgent military might.
Because once Medvedev reads the 33-word oath of office in Russia's 15-year-old constitution, Russia will effectively have two leaders - a political configuration that analysts scrambled to name a "diarchy," "tandem" and "double-headed state."
Many Western diplomats and business leaders look to the soft- spoken lawyer Medvedev for a thaw in Putin's characteristic bellicose rhetoric and a more liberal hand over the economy.
But others are sceptical that Medvedev, who owes his ascension to Putin, can act independently and charge that Putin will manipulate the networks of power, in which critics say he has rolled back democratic freedoms.
Over two-thirds of Russians believe Putin will continue to control the state, according to a poll by the independent Levada Centre.
Medvedev, 42, has promised to appoint the 55-year-old ex-KGB agent Putin prime minister, his first act as head of state.
Putin on Wednesday officially became the leader of the country's dominant party United Russia, setting himself up to preside over a government majority large enough pass changes to the constitution.
By Friday, the Medvedev-Putin duo will preside together over a military parade of tanks, troops and jets streaming over Red Square to commemorate WWII Victory Day with a show of strength.