Vladimir Putin has signed a law that would let him seek additional presidential terms in 2024 and 2030, Reuters reports.
The Russian president’s term ends in 2024, and he can now run for two more six-year terms.
This move, made possible by a referendum on constitutional amendments in 2020, means Putin could surpass Joseph Stalin as the longest-reigning leader in Russia since Peter the Great, according to The Moscow Times.
Putin’s critics and opponents have said he’s effectively become “president for life” via this legislation.
Widely characterised as an authoritarian president, Putin has already ruled over Russia for 20 years. By signing the law, the 68-year-old Russian president could remain in power until he’s 83.
A former KGB operative, Putin assumed the presidency in 1999. During his time in office, Putin has garnered a reputation as an anti-democratic leader who ruthlessly cracks down on dissent. Putin’s opponents have often died in violent or mysterious ways or been subjected to serious harm, including poisoning.
The Russian president’s most prominent critic, the anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny, was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok in August and nearly died. Navalny accused Putin of orchestrating the poisoning, and leaders across the world — including President Joe Biden — have condemned the Russian president over the incident.
After receiving treatment in Germany for several months, Navalny was arrested upon returning to Moscow this year and faced charges of violating the terms of a suspended sentence for fraud in 2014 — a conviction the European Court of Human Rights described as politically motivated. Navalny is behind bars and on a hunger strike, saying he’s not being given proper medical treatment.
Beyond going after opponents on the domestic front, Putin over the years has become increasingly aggressive with Russia’s foreign policy. Putin sparked outrage worldwide with the annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Russian interference in US elections and a war involving Kremlin-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, among other issues, have led to major tensions between Washington, DC, and Moscow.
During an interview in March, Biden referred to Putin as a “killer,” prompting outrage from the Kremlin.
“When I was a child, when we argued in the courtyard, we said the following: ‘If you call someone names, that’s really your name,'” Putin responded. “When we characterize other people, or even when we characterize other states, other people, it is always as though we are looking in the mirror.”