Putin back in control of Russia's nuclear button
Russia's newly sworn-in President Vladimir Putin Monday was handed the black suitcase that controls the country's vast nuclear arsenal moments after taking his oath to a third term, Interfax reported.
The Kremlin ceremony of passing the "nuclear suitcase" from outgoing leader Dmitry Medvedev to Putin was overseen by Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, the news agency reported.
The portable communications device uses a secret code called Cheget to allow the country's commander-in-chief to launch commands that could potentially trigger a nuclear attack against a foreign country.
The system was developed in 1983 and first used by former Soviet leader Konstantin Chernenko in 1984, the news agency said.
Widely seen as a relic of the Cold War standoff between Moscow and Washington, the suitcase accompanies the Russian president on all his foreign trips.
Although always remaining in the president's possession, it was briefly passed on to late Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin in October 1996 when former leader Boris Yeltsin underwent a heart bypass operation.
Medvedev held on to it for four years after taking over the presidency from Putin, whose first two terms stretched between 2000 and 2008.