Live Blog: Putin’s Annual Address

Putin notes importance of Supreme Court and Constitutional Court. Says constitution must bolster the independence of judges. says Federation Council should have to right to recommend the removal of judges from the highest courts.
“We are duty-bound to defend the memory of our heroes,” Putin says as he praises preparations for the 75th anniversary of victory over fascism. Russia has long railed against what it sees as the West’s ignorance of the sacrifice the Soviet Union made in WWII.
Says Russia must remain a “strong presidential republic” and president must retain the right to dismiss governors and ministers, retain control over the military and security forces. Says president should consult with the Federation Council when naming heads of so-called power ministries.
Says this will raise the role and significance of the Duma and political parties.
Putin says constitution should be changed so that Duma has right to confirm cabinet ministers and nominate prime minister and deputy prime ministers and president will be obligated to confirm.
Putin 2024.

That’s the question that has been increasingly consuming Russia’s political class.

Will Putin try to stay on as president– or Russia’s preeminent leader– beyond 2024? That’s when his current six-year term– his second since returning to the presidency in 2012– will expire.

Last month, during his annual news conference, Putin made comments that suggested he, and Kremlin planners, were contemplating tweaking the constitution to might allow for him to stay on top of the Russian “power vertical.”

The comment got tongues wagging, but they were cryptic enough that no one was 100 percent sure what he had in mind.

(For more background, see this story here).

In today’s speech, Putin said that there was no need for a “new” constitution.

But he also called for making amendments to the constitution that guarantees it is the highest law of the land, above international law. (this is probably a reflection of how often Russia is on the losing end of cases brought against it in the European Court of Human Rights).

Navalny weighs in on calls to boost the population and to improve conditions for doctors by noting that in his “first 20 years of his reign” Putin closed feldsher-midwife stations (health clinics where physicians’ assistants and midwives provided first aid and basic health services) throughout the country, declaring them ineffective and unprofitable.

“And now, to the applause of United Russia, he declares that it is important to create and open feldsher-midwife offices. Putin’s breakthrough.”

Navalny suggesting that Prime Minister — and former President — Dmitry Medvedev fell asleep during Putin’s speech. I suspect he might just have blinked — Putin is only an hour into the speech, after all — or closed his eyes for a second, and not actually dozed off.

Putin calls for “fundamental” change in the role of governors in forming national policies. Says their role in the State Council should be formalized in the constitution.
Putin calls for regular indexation of pensions.
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