Russia's Putin sends his constitutional proposals to Parliament

Mikhail Mishustin From unknown tax chief to prime minister of Russia

Putin wants to remove the word "consecutive" in the current constitution's stipulation that the president can not serve "more than two consecutive terms", according to the bill posted on the website of the Kremlin-controlled lower house, the State Duma, on January 20.

Putin announced the changes in his state of the nation address last Wednesday, prompting the government to quickly resign.

Mr Mishustin, 53, who ran the country's tax service, was appointed the Prime Minister a day later after being nominated for the post by Mr Putin.

The late Soviet period was characterized by a series of elderly leaders such as Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko who all died in office, sparking a scramble by others to grab power.

Critics accuse Putin, a former KGB officer, of plotting to stay on in some capacity after his term ends.

There has been speculation that the reforms are aimed at allowing Putin to hold on to power when his fourth Kremlin term expires in 2024.

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The amended Constitution would, for the first time, define the role of the State Council, a presidential advisory body, establishing its status in a new law. He has dominated Russian politics, as president or as prime minister, for two decades.

Some commentators speculated that the proposed tweak of the term limit as a sign that Putin could be eyeing another swap with Medvedev and wants to legally limit his protege to just one term.

Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin hailed the suggested constitutional amendments as "historic", following Putin's description of them as offering "more power to the people".

Opposition activist Ilya Yashin called for a massive protest in Moscow on February 29 to protest against the "usurpation" of power.

Yashin said the protest, permission for which he said would now be requested from the Moscow authorities, had the support of a wide range of anti-Kremlin groups including opposition politician Alexei Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation.

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