Russian PM Dmitry Mevedev has announced that his government is resigning, hours after President Vladimir Putin proposed sweeping constitutional changes that could prolong his stay in power.
If approved by the public, the proposals would transfer power from the presidency to parliament.
President Putin is due to step down in 2024 when his fourth term of office comes to an end.
However, there is speculation he could seek a new role or hold on to power behind the scenes.
President Putin put forward his plans in his annual state of the nation address to lawmakers. Later, in an unexpected move, PM Dmitry Medvedev announced that the government was resigning to help facilitate the changes.
Vladimir Putin said during a speech to both chambers of parliament that there would be a nationwide vote on changes that would shift power from the presidency to parliament.
Constitutional reforms included giving the lower house of parliament, the State Duma, “greater responsibility” for the appointment of the prime minister and the cabinet.
Currently, the president appoints the prime minister and government ministers, and the Duma approves the decision.
Presidnet Putin also suggested an increased role for an advisory body called the State Council. The council, which is currently chaired by Vladimir Putin, comprises the heads of Russia’s federal regions. President Putin said it had proved to be “highly effective”.
Other measures include:
Limiting the supremacy of international law
Amending the rules that limit presidents to two consecutive terms
Strengthening laws that prohibit presidential candidates who have held foreign citizenship or foreign residency permits
PM Dmitry Medvedev made his announcement on state TV with President Putin sitting next to him.
He said: “These changes, when they are adopted… will introduce substantial changes not only to an entire range of articles of the constitution, but also to the entire balance of power, the power of the executive, the power of the legislature, the power of judiciary.
“In this context… the government in its current form has resigned.”
Vladimir Putin thanked Dmitry Medvedev for his work but said “not everything” had been accomplished.
He asked the prime minister to become deputy head of the National Security Council, which is chaired by the president.
Vladimir Putin later nominated tax service chief Mikhail Mishustin to replace Dmitry Medvedev as prime minister.
Dmitry Medvedev has been prime minister for several years. He previously served as president from 2008-2012, switching roles with Vladimir Putin – a close ally – after the latter served his first two terms as president. Russia’s constitution only allows presidents to serve two consecutive terms.
Even when he was prime minister, Vladimir Putin was widely seen as the power behind then President Medvedev.
Opposition leader and leading Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said he believed that any referendum on the constitutional changes would be “fraudulent crap”. He said Vladimir Putin’s goal was to be “sole leader for life”.
The last time Russia held a referendum was in 1993 when it adopted the constitution under President Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin’s predecessor.
Vladimir Putin became acting president following Boris Yeltsin’s resignation in 1999 and was formally inaugurated a year later. He has held the reins of power – as president or prime minister – ever since.
Alexei Navalny, 40, tweeted from the building: “Hello everyone from Tversky Court. The time will come when we will have them on trial (but honestly).”
He also said that PM Dmitry Medvedev should be summoned by the court as the chief organizer of the protests.
Alexei Navalny has yet to go before a judge but is likely to face charges relating to organizing banned protests and could be held for 15 days.
March 26 protests drew thousands of protesters nationwide, including in Saint Petersburg, Vladivostok, Novosibirsk, Tomsk and several other cities, as well as Moscow.
At least 500 protesters were detained. Most of the marches were organized without official permission.
TV footages showed demonstrators chanting “Down with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin!”, “Russia without Putin!” and “Putin is a thief!”.
Correspondents say the marches appear to be the biggest since anti-government demonstrations in 2011 and 2012.
An EU spokesman said the Russian police action had “prevented the exercise of basic freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly, which are fundamental rights enshrined in the Russian constitution”.
The statement added: “We call on the Russian authorities to abide fully by the international commitments it has made… and to release without delay the peaceful demonstrators that have been detained.”
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement: “The Russian people, like people everywhere, deserve a government that supports an open marketplace of ideas, transparent and accountable governance, equal treatment under the law, and the ability to exercise their rights without fear of retribution.”
Russia has announced it is extending its list of countries subject to a food import ban in retaliation for Western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis.
Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev said the ban would now apply to Iceland, Liechtenstein, Albania and Montenegro.
Dmitry Medvedev said Ukraine would be added in 2016 if an economic agreement between Kiev and the EU came into force.
The bulldozing of tonnes of Western-produced cheese and other foodstuffs has angered anti-poverty campaigners.
Russia began destroying banned produce earlier this month, steamrollering fruit and burning boxes of bacon. Critics say it should be used to feed the poor and hungry.
The move comes after the EU and US introduced sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and actions in eastern Ukraine.
Photo RIA Novosti
Certain products from EU countries as well as Australia, Canada, Norway and the US were banned in August last year.
Speaking at a cabinet of ministers on August 13, Dmitry Medvedev said Iceland, Liechtenstein, Albania and Montenegro would also now be affected because they had joined EU sanctions against Russia.
“Joining the sanctions is a conscious choice which means readiness for retaliatory measures from our part, which have been adopted,” the prime minister said in comments broadcast on state-owned channel Rossiya 24.
The ban includes meat, fish, dairy products, fruit and vegetables.
Dmitry Medvedev previously said that the counter-sanctions had given domestic agriculture a significant boost and had not caused shortages, according to Rossiya 24.
Russian authorities have also started burning Dutch flowers, saying they pose a safety risk because they may be infected with pests.
However, critics say Russia wants to take revenge on the Netherlands over its handling of the investigation into the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over rebel-held eastern Ukraine last year.
In a rare move against President Vladimir Putin, Russia’s Communist Party announced on August 13 it had submitted a bill to parliament calling for smuggled Western food to be given to the needy instead of being destroyed.
The Kremlin says food cannot be given away because it could be unsafe.
Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev’s Twitter account was hacked on Thursday with the infiltrators posting a message claiming the premier had resigned.
The Russian-language feed, which has more than 2.5 million followers, was also filled with tweets denouncing President Vladimir Putin.
The impersonator wrote that Dmitry Medvedev would be pursuing a new career as a freelance photographer.
A Russian hacking collective has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Hackers wrote on Dmitry Medvedev’s Twitter account that he had resign and would be pursuing a new career as a freelance photographer (photo Twitter)
The government quickly confirmed the account had been hacked.
“I resign. I am ashamed of the government’s actions. I’m sorry,” the infiltrators initially wrote, following it up with tweets saying that electricity would be banned, and that Vladimir Putin was “wrong”.
Shaltay-Boltay, a Russian hacking collective, has said it carried out the attack.
The group, whose name is Russian for Humpty Dumpty, also claimed it had infiltrated the Gmail account and iPhones of Dmitry Medvedev.
Shaltay-Boltay tweeted: “Several mail accounts – including the Gmail – and the content of three iPhones of a certain prime minister have randomly fallen into our hands on the internet. Details later.”
Dmitry Medvedev’s English-language Twitter account did not appear to be affected by the attack.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Ukraine’s interim authorities had conducted an “armed mutiny”.
And the Russian foreign ministry said dissenters in mainly Russian-speaking regions faced suppression.
Earlier, Ukraine’s interim interior minister said an arrest warrant had been issued for ousted President Viktor Yanukovych.
Ukraine’s parliament voted to remove Viktor Yanukovych on Saturday. His whereabouts are unknown but he was reported to have been in the Crimean peninsula on Sunday.
Russia has already recalled its ambassador to Ukraine for consultation.
Dmitry Medvedev said Ukraine’s interim authorities had conducted an armed mutiny
Unrest in Ukraine began in November when Viktor Yanukovych rejected a landmark association and trade deal with the EU in favor of closer ties with Russia.
Dmitry Medvedev, quoted by Russian news agencies, suggested that Western countries that accepted Ukraine’s new authorities were mistaken.
“The legitimacy of a whole number of organs of power that function there raises great doubts,” he said.
“Some of our foreign, Western partners think otherwise. This is some kind of aberration of perception when people call legitimate what is essentially the result of an armed mutiny.”
He added: “We do not understand what is going on there. There is a real threat to our interests and to the lives of our citizens.”
Ukraine’s foreign ministry quickly responded to Dmitry Medvedev’s comments on Russian citizens in Ukraine, saying his concerns were “unfounded”.
However, Russia’s foreign ministry also issued a strongly worded statement saying a “forced change of power” was taking place in Ukraine and accused interim leaders of passing new laws “aimed at infringing the humanitarian rights of Russians and other ethnic minorities”.
Russian police have seized a painting depicting President Vladimir Putin in women’s underwear from an art gallery in St Petersburg.
The portrait features President Vladimir Putin combing the hair of Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev.
Two other pictures were also seized which poked fun at conservative Russian politicians who led a campaign to introduce controversial anti-gay laws.
Police said the paintings broke unspecified legislation.
The portrait features President Vladimir Putin combing the hair of Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev
A fourth painting depicting the head of the Russian Orthodox Church adorned with tattoos was also confiscated from the Museum of the Authorities.
Gallery owner Aleksander Donskoy claimed he had been given no formal warrant or explanation for the removal of the paintings, which were included in an exhibition entitled Rulers, by Arkhangelsk artist Konstantin Altunin.
One of the pictures seized features Vladimir Putin in a nightgown, standing behind Dmitry Medvedev and stroking his hair, while the prime minister is depicted with a woman’s body and wearing lingerie.
Another painting shows St Petersburg legislative assembly member Vitaly Milonov – one of the architects of Russia’s anti-gay laws – against the background of a rainbow, the symbol of gay pride.
St Petersburg, which hosts the G20 summit next week, was one of the first Russian cities to introduce a law against what it terms “gay propaganda”.
The adjourned appeal hearing for three activists from the Russian punk band Pussy Riot has started in Moscow.
In August, the trio were jailed for two years for staging an anti-Kremlin protest in Moscow’s main cathedral, Christ the Saviour.
The appeal was adjourned last week because one of the defendants said she wanted time to replace her lawyer.
Yekaterina Samutsevich told the judge she had a difference of opinion with her original counsel.
The 30-year-old and fellow band members Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, were found guilty of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” in August.
Their imprisonment sparked condemnation in many parts of the world.
The band performed an obscenity-laced song in front of the altar of Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral on 21 February.
The adjourned appeal hearing for three activists from the Russian punk band Pussy Riot has started in Moscow
The “punk prayer” – which implored the Virgin Mary to “throw out” President Vladimir Putin and sought, the band said, to highlight the Russian Orthodox Church leader’s support for the president – enraged the Church.
But while the Church hierarchy said the women’s action “cannot be left unpunished”, it added that any penitence shown should be taken into consideration.
Those comments followed a suggestion from Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev that a suspended sentence would have been sufficient punishment.
But the women’s lawyers have said their clients would not repent if it meant admitting guilt.
They have said they doubt the appeal will be successful, with analysts suggesting that while the band members’ sentences might be reduced, they were unlikely to be overturned.
A Russian court in Moscow has begun hearing an appeal by three activists from punk band Pussy Riot.
In August, three members of Pussy Riot were jailed for two years for staging an anti-Kremlin protest in Moscow’s main cathedral, Christ the Saviour.
The Russian Orthodox Church said on Sunday that clemency should be possible for the trio as long as they repented what they called their “punk prayer”.
But their lawyers have said that they doubt the appeal will be successful.
The three band members – Maria Alyokhina, 24, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30 – were found guilty of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” in August.
Their imprisonment sparked condemnation in many parts of the world.
The Pussy Riot members were all present in the Moscow court on Monday, in a glass-fronted defendants’ cage.
Yekaterina Samutsevich argued with the judge, complaining that her request for a different defence lawyer had not been met. The hearing was then adjourned temporarily.
Their obscenity-laced performance on 21 February, which implored the Virgin Mary to “throw out” President Vladimir Putin and sought, they said, to highlight the Russian Orthodox Church leader’s support for the president, enraged the Church.
But, in a statement, the Church said that though the women’s action “cannot be left unpunished”, if they showed penitence and reconsideration of their action their words “shouldn’t be left unnoticed”.
“The Church sincerely wishes for the repentance of those who desecrated a holy place, certainly it would benefit their souls,” senior Church spokesman Vladimir Legoida said.
The Church’s comments follow a suggestion from Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev last month that a suspended sentence would have been sufficient punishment for the women.
Their lawyers have said that their clients will not repent if it means admitting guilt.
“If they [the Church] mean repentance in the sense of a crime … it definitely won’t happen. Our clients won’t admit guilt. A call for that is pointless,” lawyer Mark Feigin told independent TV channel Dozhd on Sunday.
The father of one of the jailed women said that whether they repent or not, the trio has little hope of their sentences being quashed.
“The sentence is predetermined; their repentance will not affect it in any way,” Stanislav Samutsevich told Reuters.
Vladimir Putin is back to Kremlin where he is inaugurated as president of Russia in a ceremony in the capital, Moscow.
Vladimir Putin is returning to the presidency after an absence of four years in which he served as prime minister. The outgoing President, Dmitry Medvedev, was widely seen as an ally of Vladimir Putin.
He won a third term as president in controversial elections in March.
On Sunday, thousands of protesters opposed to the inauguration clashed with police in Moscow.
Vladimir Putin took the presidential oath at the Grand Kremlin Palace, in a hall that was once the throne room of the Russian tsars.
Vladimir Putin is back to Kremlin where he is inaugurated as president of Russia in a ceremony in Moscow
In a short speech he said Russia was “entering a new phase of national development”.
“We will have to decide tasks of a new level, a new quality and scale. The coming years will be decisive for Russia’s fate for decades to come.”
Vladimir Putin said Dmitry Medvedev had given a new impulse to modernization, and the “transformation” of Russia must continue.
He also spoke of the need to strengthen Russian democracy and constitutional rights.
If he completes his six-year term, Vladimir Putin will be the longest serving Russian leader since Soviet supreme ruler Joseph Stalin.
However, Vladimir Putin faces many problems; the political system he created has been showing cracks, economic growth is forecast to slow, and violence in the volatile North Caucasus continues.
How Vladimir Putin deals with the wave of opposition protests which broke out last December will also be a key test of his administration.
Sunday’s protest against the inauguration was peaceful until a small group of demonstrators tried to break through the lines of riot police.
Some of the protesters launched a sit-in by the police lines, refusing to leave unless the inauguration was cancelled.
They were also demanding an hour of TV airtime and new elections.
Prominent opposition activists Alexei Navalny, Sergei Udaltsov and Boris Nemtsov were among dozens detained.
A rival demonstration in support of Vladimir Putin also took place in the city.
Vladimir Putin is celebrating his victory in Russian elections, which will give him a third presidential term after spending the last four years as the country’s prime minister.
With more than 99% of the ballots counted, Vladimir Putin secured nearly 64% of the vote, according to Russian election officials.
Vladimir Putin told supporters in Moscow he had won in an open and honest battle.
But Golos, a leading independent election watchdog, said the polls could not be considered fair and open.
It said there were instances of forced voting, numerous reports of “carousel” voting – in which voters cast multiple ballots – and that campaigning had been insufficiently competitive.
“Such elections cannot be called fair, just and open according to the Russian constitution and international standards,” a Golos spokeswoman said at a news conference on Monday morning.
Vladimir Putin is celebrating his victory in Russian elections, which will give him a third presidential term after spending the last four years as the country's prime minister
Golos put Vladimir Putin’s count at just over 50% – far less than the official figure given by the election commission.
Opposition groups have also alleged widespread fraud, and plan a protest rally in Moscow later on Monday.
Tens of thousands of supporters of Vladimir Putin – with Russian flags and banners – took part in a concert outside the Kremlin to celebrate his victory late on Sunday.
Making a brief appearance with current President Dmitry Medvedev, Vladimir Putin thanked his supporters from “every corner” of the country.
“I promised you we would win, and we won,” Vladimir Putin said, his eyes watering. “Glory to Russia!”
“We have won in an open and honest battle.
“We proved that no one can force anything on us.”
Slogans on the banner included “Putin – our president” and “We believe in Putin”.
Vladimir Putin, who supported Dmitry Medvedev in the Kremlin race in 2008 and became prime minister because of a constitutional ban on a third consecutive term as president, will now be in office until 2018. He could then run for another six-year term.
There was tight security around the capital, with 6,000 extra police brought in from outside.
On Monday morning the electoral commission said that with more than 99% of the votes counted, Vladimir Putin won 63.75%, enough to give him a first-round victory over nearest rival Gennady Zyuganov, who polled 17.19%
The other three candidates were in single digits.
The turnout is predicted to be about 63%.
After the polls closed, Gennady Zyuganov – the leader of the Communist Party who has previously been relatively loyal to Vladimir Putin – described the elections as “unfair and unworthy”.
But he said that with increasing public anger, Vladimir Putin “would not be able to rule like he used to”.
“These elections cannot be considered legitimate in any way,” said Vladimir Ryzhkov, one of the leaders of the street protest movement, which was not represented in the election.
However, Vladimir Putin’s campaign chief Stanislav Govorukhin described the poll as “the cleanest in Russian history”.
The election was held against a backdrop of popular discontent, sparked by allegations of widespread fraud during December’s parliamentary elections in favor of Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party.
The alleged fraud came despite the presence of thousands of independent observers and web cameras at polling stations.
Opposition blogger and anti-corruption campaigner Alexey Navalny said: “Grandiose scale of falsifications, especially in Moscow… mass use of carousel voting.”
Also on Monday morning, Dmitry Medvedev announced he had ordered a review of the conviction of jailed former tycoon, Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a prominent Kremlin critic who was once Russia’s richest man, was found guilty of embezzlement in 2010 in what many considered to have been a politically motivated trial.
Tens of thousands of people gathered in central Moscow to protest against Vladimir Putin and the alleged electoral fraud.
The protesters passed a resolution “not to give a single vote to Vladimir Putin” at next year’s presidential election.
Protest leader Alexei Navalny told the crowd to loud applause that Russians would no longer tolerate corruption.
“I see enough people here to take the Kremlin and [Government House] right now but we are peaceful people and won’t do that just yet,” Alexei Navalny said.
Protesters say parliamentary elections on December 4, which were won by Vladimir Putin’s party, were rigged. The government denies the accusation.
Tens of thousands of people gathered in central Moscow to protest against Vladimir Putin and the alleged electoral fraud
A sea of demonstrators stretched along Sakharov Avenue, a few miles from the Kremlin, in sub-zero temperatures.
Rallies were taking place across Russia, with the first big protest in the far eastern city of Vladivostok.
At least 28,000 people turned out in the capital, according to the Russian interior ministry, but rally organizers said the true number was around 120,000.
President Dmitry Medvedev announced political reforms this week, but many demonstrators say it is not enough.
They are demanding a re-run of the poll, which was won by Vladimir Putin’s party – but with a much smaller share of the overall vote.
Vladimir Putin poured scorn on protesters during a recent live chat on Russian TV, calling them “Banderlog” after the lawless monkeys in The Jungle Book, and likening their protest symbol, a white ribbon, to a condom.
However, Vladimir Putin also said protesters had the right to demonstrate if they kept within the law.
In Moscow, many protesters clutched white balloons and banners with the slogan “For Free Elections” while some mocked Vladimir Putin with images of condoms, to the extent that the first speaker, music journalist Artyom Troitsky, dressed himself up as one.
The resolution passed at Saturday’s rally built on demands expressed at an earlier rally in Moscow on December 10.
Another new point was a call for the creation of a new election monitoring body – the Moscow Voters’ Association – to investigate ballot-rigging.
Alexei Navalny, a prominent anti-corruption blogger who was jailed for 15 days over a street protest just after the elections, greeted the crowd with the words: “Greetings to the Banderlog from the net hamsters [internet activists].”
Condemning Russia’s leaders as “swindlers and thieves”, he listed victims of injustice including imprisoned former tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in custody.
“Who’s the power here?” he shouted to cries of “We are” from the crowd.
Alexei Navalny promised that the next protest rally would be a “million strong”.
Alexei Kudrin, who recently resigned after serving a decade as Vladimir Putin’s finance minister, was booed when he took the microphone to call for early parliamentary elections and urge a dialogue between the Kremlin and the opposition.
“There needs to be a platform for dialogue, otherwise there will be a revolution and we lose the chance that we have today for a peaceful transformation,” he said.
A total of 22 speakers were lined up for the Moscow rally, with rival opposition figures addressing a crowd which mixed liberals with nationalists.
• In a video message, Russian rock musician Yury Shevchuk urged protesters to maintain their dignity and avoid “competing in hatred for the authorities”
• Billionaire and Putin election challenger Mikhail Prokhorov had been expected to address the rally but stayed in the crowd, saying he had heard presidential candidates were “not supposed to speak”
• Another presidential candidate, veteran liberal Grigory Yavlinsky, did speak, and called for a free electoral system
• Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, 80, did not attend after all, sending a message of support instead. He later told Moscow Echo radio that Mr Putin should not stand for another term in office
Saturday’s rally in Moscow ended peacefully, with the last speaker a Grandfather Frost (Russian Santa Claus) figure who wished citizens of a “free Russia” a Happy New Year.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin joined a biker gang on Monday and led them on motorcade at a festival in Novorossiysk, a Black Sea port.
Vladimir Putin, 58, was riding a three-wheeled Harley Davidson and looking very much at home in the latest of macho stunts that have punctuated his political career.
It is well known that Putin’s eccentric photos topless horse-riding and hunting have earned him the nickname “Alpha Dog” in U.S. diplomatic circles.
After riding around for a while, black-clad Vladimir Putin boarded a Soviet-era warship in the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk, where the prime minister took part to a festival that mark the city’s liberation during the Second World War.
Vladimir Putin was riding a three wheeled Harley Davidson while he led the motorcade
During his speech at the festival, Putin called the bikers his “brothers”:
“I want to talk to you, brothers. It is cool that you do not forget the heroes of the past.
“Boys, girls you are great. Not only are you having fun while riding your bikes but you are also combining it with patriotic deeds.”
Vladimir Putin’s party, United Russia, intends to secure a 2/3 majority in December’s elections for the Duma lower house of parliament.
The 2/3 majority would give United Russia the power to change the constitution.
It seems campaigning began for real on Monday, after President Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree setting the date for the poll as December 4.
The Russian elections from next December will also set the scene for a presidential poll in March 2012.
Nor prime minister Vladimir Putin or president Dmitry Medvedev have said who will run for the presidential race.
At Novorossiysk motorcade, Putin rode along “Night Wolves” biker club members with the hard-rock club anthem in the background.
“Night Wolves” club leader is Alexander Zaldostanov, nicknamed “Surgeon”, one of Vladimir Putin’s friends.
"Night Wolves" club leader is Alexander Zaldostanov, nicknamed "Surgeon", one of Vladimir Putin's friends
During his participation at the festival, Vladimir Putin was flanked by veterans of World War Two and the conflicts in former Yugoslavia.