Putin open to tweaking Constitution

MOSCOW • President Vladimir Putin said yesterday that Russia is not planning to create a military alliance with China, despite Moscow helping Beijing build a missile attack warning system.

Mr Putin had said in October that Russia was helping China build the system, but yesterday, he said it was purely a defensive measure.

Mr Putin was speaking at his annual news conference where he touched on a range of domestic and international issues.

On the domestic front, the Russian leader said yesterday he was open to the possibility of altering Russia's Constitution, including proposals to increase Parliament's power and to limit the number of presidential terms anyone can serve.

The issue of constitutional change in Russia is watched closely amid speculation about Mr Putin's own political ambitions.

In power as either president or prime minister since 1999, Mr Putin, 67, is due to step down in 2024 when his fourth presidential term ends.

Under the current Constitution, which bans anyone from serving more than two successive presidential terms, Mr Putin is barred from immediately running again.

Mr Putin yesterday said he was open to the idea of making constitutional changes when it came to parliamentary powers and the institutions of the presidency and prime ministership, but said Russia should tread carefully.

"It's only possible to do this (the changes) after thorough preparation and a deep discussion in society. You'd need to be very careful," Mr Putin told the conference.

He said he was open to tweaking presidential term limits, suggesting they could be changed to limit anyone's ability to serve more than two terms.

"One thing that could be changed about these (presidential) terms is removing the clause about 'successive' (terms). Your humble servant served two terms consecutively, then left his post and had the constitutional right to return to the post of president, because these were not two successive terms," he said.

"(This clause) troubles some of our political analysts and public figures. Well, maybe it could be removed," he added.

Mr Putin yesterday also rejected allegations of Russian interference in British politics.

Relations between London and Moscow remain strained over everything from the 2018 poisoning in England of a former Russian spy and his daughter to Syria and Ukraine.

Asked about an unpublished British parliamentary report into allegations Russia had attempted to interfere in British politics, something the Kremlin has repeatedly denied, Mr Putin said: "As regards (Russian) interference or non-interference, we've heard many times from official governing bodies in various countries, including Britain, assessments of what is happening inside Russia. Is that interference?" asked Mr Putin. "We reserve the right to behave in the same way towards you," he said.

Mr Putin also said yesterday that US Democrats had impeached President Donald Trump for "fabricated" reasons in order to reverse his 2016 election victory. He said he expected Mr Trump to survive the proceedings and stay in office.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 20, 2019, with the headline Putin open to tweaking Constitution. Subscribe