Putin speeds up Russian political shake-up

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MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin accelerated a shake-up of Russia’s political system on Monday, submitting a constitutional reform blueprint to parliament that will create a new center of power outside the presidency. Putin also replaced Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika, who had held the role since 2006, a move suggesting his planned changes could reach beyond the political system and the government. In a surprise move, Putin announced plans for reforms last week. Long-time ally Dmitry Medvedev then resigned as prime minister along with the government, saying he wanted to allow room for the president to make the changes. Putin’s proposed changes are widely seen as giving him scope to retain influence once his term expires in 2024 though he said at the weekend he did not favor the Soviet-era practice of having leaders for life who die in office. In draft amendments submitted to the State Duma lower house, Putin offered a glimpse of how his reforms look on paper. Under his plan, some of the president’s broad powers would be clipped and parliament’s powers expanded. In one of the biggest changes, the status of the State Council, now a low-profile body that advises the president, would for the first time be enshrined in the constitution. Putin, 67, has not disclosed what he plans to do once he leaves the Kremlin. One option could be to head the beefed-up State Council once he leaves the presidency.–Agencies