Russia’s Constitutional Court approves Putin’s power grab
Russia’s Constitutional Court has approved constitutional changes that would allow 67-year-old President Vladimir Putin to stay in power until 2036.
The highest court removed the final potential obstacle to Putin being forced to end his term in 2024.
The Kremlin said the extension was vital to preserving national security.
More than 420 Russian scholars, lawyers and writers have signed an open letter calling for Putin’s plans to be rejected.
The letter, published online by Ekho Moskvy radio, said the extension was an “unlawful constitutional coup”. “The development undermines the possibility of the evolutionary development of our country on the principles of democracy and freedom,” the open letter read.
It is rapidly collecting signatures.
A referendum on constitutional amendments is due on April 22.
Critics have said the vote is unfair as the whole package — including increases in social spending — must be accepted or rejected.
The coronavirus, however, might alter the timetable.
Russia has reported 93 Covid-19 cases although some believe the real figure is far higher.
Russia yesterday closed its borders until May 1 in response to the coronavirus.
The ban will not affect Russian citizens, diplomats, crew, transit passengers and foreign citizens with residency rights. Those travelling following the death of a relative can apply for an exception.
First Russia closed its border with Belarus, angering President Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus who said “Russian hotheads” were overreacting.
Russia then limited gatherings to 50 and banned all outdoor events. There are already temperature tests at airports; schools, libraries and other public spaces have been closed; there is compulsory self-isolation for those returning from “at-risk” countries; and bans on foreigners in museums and theatres.
But many refuse to believe official statements.
Incredulously the Kremlin said it was surprised by the proposal approved by the Duma, or lower house, last week to allow Putin to stay in power until 2036.
Ekaterina Schulmann, a former member of the government’s human rights council, said the Constitutional Court’s ruling was feeble.
“It is rare that the spirit of slavery and intellectual cowardice express themselves with such fullness in a written text,” she posted on Facebook.
The Constitutional Court has been chaired by Valery Zorkin since it was formed after the fall of the Soviet Union.
President Vladimir Putin with Constitutional Court chairman Valery Zorkin. Picture credit: Kremlin