Vladimir Putin backs ex-cosmonaut’s plan to extend his stay in power

"This would be possible. if the constitutional court rules such an amendment would not go against (the constitution)", Putin told lawmakers. Russians are scheduled to vote on the proposed amendment on April 22 in a nationwide constitutional referendum.

The idea of resetting term limits was voiced by the pro-Putin United Russia deputy Valentina Tereshkova, a former cosmonaut and the first woman in space, during the parliamentary session on Tuesday.

As UNIAN reported, today, March 10, State Duma member Valentina Tereshkova proposed removing restrictions on the number of presidential terms and allowing Putin to be re-elected.

"This is necessary for the dynamics of the country's development", Putin said.

Putin's statement came as lawmakers were considering the amendments in a crucial second reading when changes in the document are made.

Kremlin critics denounced the move as cynical manipulation and called for protests.

Hours later, the 170-seat Federation Council, the upper house of parliament, gave its approval by 160 votes to one.

The package Mr Putin announced in January includes a slew of political and social reforms.

The changes redistribute the executive powers of the Russian government in Moscow and further strengthen the power of the presidency, while also banning same-sex marriage and listing "a belief in God" as one of Russia's traditional values.

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That includes two of the biggest states, California, with 495 delegates, and Texas, with 262. "To me, that is just stunning news". Mr Trump responded rapidly on Twitter , claiming that the Democratic party leadership would act to halt Mr Sanders winning.

Other proposals aim at boosting living standards, including a guaranteed minimum wage and state pensions adjusted to inflation.

The proposal sparked a fierce backlash from critics, including opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who accused Putin of seeking to become "president for life".

Shortly after, Putin himself appeared in the parliament, delivering a long and carefully scripted speech, despite the supposed suddenness of the proposal.

An open letter signed by more than 20 opposition figures called on Russians to reject Putin's attempt to "usurp power". It formed two months ago to organize opposition efforts against the proposed constitutional action.

Observers had previously suggested that Putin could be looking to stay on in a behind-the-scenes role after 2024 as head of another state body.

Putin has not spelled out what his plans for the future are after 2024, but has said he does not favour the Soviet-era practice of having leaders for life who die in office. He has dominated the Russian political landscape for two decades.

"Putin until 2036, it's just unthinkable", said Mr Ilya Azar, a journalist and activist who organised Tuesday's protest.

As Moscow's relations with the West soured over the 2014 annexation and more scandals followed, the Kremlin kept Putin's popularity high by painting Russian Federation as a besieged fortress in need of a strong leader to withstand the outside pressure.

"The very existence of such an opportunity for the incumbent president - given his great authority - is a stabilising factor for our society", she said.

  • Sonia Alvarado