Russia investigating another suspected case of toxic poisoning

Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny fell into a coma after he collapsed in an aeroplane toilet on Thursday, prompting his allies to suspect poisoning.

If true, he would not be the first prominent, outspoken Russian to be the target of a toxic attack.

Here are some other people who have criticised the Kremlin and then fallen victim to suspected poisonings:

Alexander Litvinenko

A former agent for the KGB and post-Soviet successor agency FSB, Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Litvinenko defected from Russia in 2000 and fled to London, where he fell violently ill six years later after drinking tea laced with radioactive polonium-210.

He died after three weeks. A British inquiry found that Russian agents had killed Litvinenko, probably with President Vladimir Putin’s approval. Russia denied any involvement.

Before his death, Litvinenko told journalists that the FSB was still operating a secret Moscow poisons laboratory dating from the Soviet era.

He was one of several former Russian intelligence officers to accuse Moscow of being behind the dioxin poisoning of Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko during his 2004 election campaign.

At the time of Litvinenko’s poisoning, he had been investigating the killing of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya three weeks earlier.

Anna Politkovskaya

An investigative journalist, Politkovskaya had written critically about abuses by Russian and pro-Moscow Chechen forces fighting separatists in Chechnya – work that earned her repeated death threats.

In 2004, she fell severely ill and lost consciousness after drinking a cup of tea. She said she was deliberately poisoned to prevent her from covering the 2004 seizure of a school in southern Russia by Chechen separatists.

Two years later, Politkovskaya was shot to death outside her Moscow apartment building, a murder that drew widespread condemnation in the West. Five men were sentenced for carrying out the killing but no one was convicted for ordering it.

Vladimir Kara-Murza

Opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza Jr was hospitalised with poisoning symptoms twice, in 2015 and 2017.

A journalist and associate of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who was shot and killed in 2015 while crossing a bridge near the Kremlin, and oligarch-turned-dissident Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Kara-Murza nearly died from kidney failure in the first incident.

He suspects poisoning but no cause has been determined.

He was taken to hospital with a sudden, similar illness in 2017 and put into a medically induced coma.

His wife said doctors confirmed he was poisoned. Kara-Murza survived, and police have refused requests to investigate the case, according to his lawyer.

POISONED former Russian Spy feared for his life after wife and son died in separate car accidents

Ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter were attacked with a nerve agent

Ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal had poison in his home

Ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal leaves Salisbury hospital

Sergei and Yulia Skripal

A Russian spy who became a double agent for the UK, Sergei Skripal fell ill in the British city of Salisbury in 2018.

Authorities said Skripal and his adult daughter, Yulia, were poisoned with the military-grade nerve agent Novichok. The two spent weeks in critical condition.

The UK put the blame squarely on Russian intelligence, but Moscow denied any role.

Putin called Skripal a “scumbag” of no interest to the Kremlin because he was tried in Russia and exchanged in a spy swap in 2010.

The UK charged two Russian men with the poisoning. They claimed they had visited Salisbury as tourists and denied any involvement in the attack, which came amid revelations about Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential campaign.

Pyotr Verzilov

Pyotr Verzilov, a member of the Russian protest group, Pussy Riot, was placed in an intensive care unit after a suspected poisoning in 2018 and had to be flown to the German capital, Berlin, for treatment.

German doctors treating him said a poisoning was “highly plausible”. He eventually recovered.

Verzilov, his partner and two other Pussy Riot members had served jail time earlier that year for running onto the field during the World Cup final in Moscow to protest against excessive Russian police powers.

He has also served time on other charges that he calls politically motivated.

Americans not happy with Russia’s claim on developing coronavirus vaccine

Two top U.S. health officials are expressing skepticism about Vladimir Putin’s claim that Russian scientists have come up with the world’s first safe and effective vaccine.

“I seriously doubt that they’ve done that,” infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said. But he added that he hopes Moscow has indeed “actually definitively proven that the vaccine is safe and effective.”

Fauci said a number of U.S. labs are working on a vaccine and could, if they wanted to, roll them out anytime.

“If we wanted to take the chance of hurting a lot of people or giving them something that doesn’t work, we could start doing this, you know, next week if we wanted to. But that’s not the way it works,” Fauci said in remarks to be broadcast Thursday by National Geographic.

Fauci has said he hopes to have millions of doses of a COVID-19 vaccine ready in the U.S. by early 2021 but has warned there is no way to guarantee the long-term effectiveness of a vaccine.

Meantime, U.S. Health and Human Services chief Alex Azar said during a visit to Taiwan on Wednesday that developing a COVID-19 vaccine is “not a race to be first.”

He said the Trump administration is working with the U.S. pharmaceutical industry to “deliver as quickly as we can for the benefit of the United States’ citizens, but also for the people of the world, safe and effective vaccines.”

The Food and Drug Administration must approve any vaccine of any kind before it is distributed to doctors and other health care professionals.

China on Wednesday called Azar’s performance in handling COVID-19 in the U.S. “the worst in the world” and said his trip to Taiwan was a stunt.

“He ignored millions of Americans suffering from the virus and went to Taiwan to put on a political show,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijan said. “His behavior proves once again that in the eyes of U.S. politicians, American lives mean nothing when compared with their selfish political gains.”

The Trump administration has accused China of trying to cover up the outbreak of COVID-19 when it began in Wuhan in December and failing to contain the disease – allegations China denies.

Azar said if the coronavirus outbreak started in Taiwan or the U.S., it could have been “snuffed out easily.”

Spain’s Galicia region has banned cigarette smoking in the streets, in outdoor restaurants, and anywhere social distancing is impractical.

Although it’s unclear if cigarette smokers are more susceptible to COVID-19, smoking contributes to the underlying health problems that make recovery from the disease much more difficult. Second-hand cigarette smoke is also a health hazard.

Officials in Spain’s Aragon region have ordered a military field hospital, and testing in Catalonia, including its capital Barcelona, is being expanded after Spain reported 1,700 hundred new COVID cases in just 24 hours Wednesday.

Greece reported 262 new cases Wednesday – its highest one-day total since the outbreak began – and Italy is ordering visitors from Greece, Spain, Croatia and Malta to be tested for COVID-19 when they cross the border. Italy is a popular vacation spot for tourists from those four nations.

The pandemic continues to have an effect on the sporting world. Two major U.S. college athletic conferences – the Big Ten and the Pac-12 – announced Tuesday they are postponing their upcoming fall football seasons.

Now, one of the world’s top golf tournaments – The Masters – will be played this year with no spectators.

It’s the third major U.S. golf match to be fan-free this year. The PGA Championship was played last week with no one watching from the sidelines. The U.S. Open, which was moved from June to September, will also have no spectators.

The Masters is usually held every April at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia. The club has been closed because of the coronavirus, and this year’s tournament has been postponed until November.

Pop singer and guitarist Trini Lopez, best known for his smash recordings of “If I Had a Hammer” and “Lemon Tree” in the 1960s, has died from COVID-19. He was 83 years old.

Along with his hit records, Lopez was also an actor, appearing on television and co-starring in the 1967 World War II film “The Dirty Dozen.”

Russia slams world powers for trying to destabilize Belarus

Russia’s foreign ministry said on Thursday it was concerned by the situation in Belarus and said there were attempts by outside forces to meddle in and destabilize the country following Sunday’s contested election.

Belarus on Thursday began releasing some of the thousands of people detained in a crackdown by President Alexander Lukashenko that has prompted the European Union (EU) to consider imposing sanctions.

Prisoners release 

Some of those freed in the capital Minsk had bruises and described being tightly packed inside cells and complained of mistreatment, including beatings. A spokeswoman for the interior ministry declined immediate comment, CGTN reported.

Their release came as thousands of people formed human chains and marched in the streets for a fifth consecutive day of protests against Lukashenko, who has dismissed the demonstrators as criminals and unemployed.

The government said that 700 more people had been detained in a fourth night of clashes on Wednesday between police and protesters.

President Alexander Lukashenko 2

New measures of EU sanction 

EU eyes sanctions over disputed Belarus election “as soon as end-August”, diplomats and officials said.

Germany, Lithuania, Latvia and Sweden have spoken publicly in favor of sanctions and Austria was another hawk, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of emergency talks between EU foreign ministers on Friday.

With any EU decision on sanctions requiring unanimity of all the 27 member states, Hungary was the main sceptic, according to the sources. Hungary on Thursday called on the bloc “to pursue dialogue with Belarus and avoid ostracizing it.”

Suggesting it could agree to some restrictions, however, Budapest passed up the opportunity to block a statement earlier this week on behalf of all EU countries that specifically mentioned sanctions “against those responsible for the observed violence, unjustified arrests, and falsification of election results” as an option.

“The direction of travel seems clear. How many people would be blacklisted, how deep we go will largely depend on Hungary,” said one EU diplomat in Brussels.

No final decision was expected on Friday, but the response could be finalized within days after another discussion among EU foreign ministers due in Berlin on August 27-28, the sources said.

Russian interference in global politics is the “new normal”

A long-awaited report published Tuesday on Russian influence in British politics criticized the British government for its slow response to Russian interference in the 2016 Brexit referendum.

The authors said it was “astonishing” that no one sought to protect democratic process in the United Kingdom, the Associated Press (AP) reports.

While the report from the parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee said it would be “difficult—if not impossible—to prove” allegations that Russia sought to influence the referendum, it was clear that the government “was slow to recognize existence of the threat” even after evidence emerged of Russian interference in the US elections back in 2014. “As a result, the government did not take action to protect the UK’s process in 2016,” the report said.

“What we do know about Russian interference in the UK is it is the new normal.” The report’s authors criticized the British government for “actively avoiding” looking into the Russian threat.

“Serious questions needed to be asked” why ministers didn’t look into the issue, the authors said.

The report says Russia sees Britain as one of its top intelligence targets in the West. It said Russian influence in the UK is the “new normal,” and said successive governments have welcomed Russian oligarchs with open arms.

The report’s release comes only days after Britain, the United States, and Canada accused hackers linked to Russian intelligence agencies of trying to steal information from researchers working on a potential coronavirus vaccine.

WHO: Low number of reported COVID-19 deaths in Russia is suspicious

When Leonid Shlykov’s father, Sergei, died in a Moscow hospital last month after 11 days on a ventilator, the death certificate listed the coronavirus as an underlying condition but not the actual cause of death.

“Yes, he was suffering from impaired kidney function and diabetes, but if it hadn’t been for COVID-19, he would’ve been alive,” the son wrote on Facebook. “If we had known the real number of infections and deaths … it would have helped us make the decision to hospitalize (dad) earlier.”

The way Russia counts fatalities during the coronavirus pandemiccould be one reason why its official death toll of 6,948 is far below many other countries, even as it has reported nearly 529,000 infections, behind only the United States and Brazil.

The paradox also has led to allegations by critics and Western media that Russian authorities might have falsified the numbers for political purposes to play down the scale of the outbreak. Even a top World Health Organization official said the low number of deaths in Russia “certainly is unusual.”

Russian authorities have bristled at the suggestions. “We have never manipulated the official statistics,” said Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova. Finding the true numbers during the pandemic is difficult, since countries count cases and deaths in different ways and testing for the virus is uneven.

Still, several factors could contribute to Russia’s low virus mortality rate, including the way it counts deaths, a tendency among some officials to embellish statistics, its vast geography and the shorter life expectancy of its population.

An autopsy is mandatory in Russia in every confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19, with a determination on the cause of death made by a commission of specialists, said Dr. Natalia Belitchenko, a pathologist in the medical examiner’s office in the region around St. Petersburg.

She deals with coronavirus deaths almost daily, but said only about 20% of them have been attributed to COVID-19. In other cases, the virus was determined to be an underlying condition. “In the vast majority of cases, the pneumonia itself wouldn’t have led to death, had the underlying conditions not flared up to a point of becoming fatal,” she told The Associated Press.

Unlike Russia, some countries’ official death count includes those who had COVID-19 but died from other causes, said Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program. “It will be important that the Russian authorities review the way in which death certification is done to reassure themselves that they are accurately certifying deaths in the appropriate way,” he said.

Death counts vary around the world because countries underreported the number of COVID-19 deaths early on, said Ali Mokdad, professor at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. They ascribed virus deaths to other causes due to insufficient testing or initially only counted deaths in hospitals, he added.

Some countries also are overcounting by including “presumptive deaths” — those who likely died of COVID-19 but were never tested for it, Mokdad said. What sets Russia apart, however, is a habit of obscuring embarrassing truths, said Judy Twigg, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University and senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The way mortality data is recorded in Russia is affected by a Soviet-era tradition of setting future targets for improving public health through efforts to reduce mortality from certain reasons, such as alcoholism or tuberculosis.

Health officials “shift the way they code causes of death in order to try to meet those targets,” Twigg said. Pathologists told AP there is pressure from hospital administrators to produce better-looking reports.

Latest coronavirus updates from Spain, India, and the UK

Spain has recorded 185 new coronavirus-related deaths in the past 24 hours, taking the total to 25,613, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday, which marked the third consecutive day when the country registered less than 200 deaths caused by COVIVD-19.

On Monday, the country confirmed 164 coronavirus-related deaths, the same number as on Sunday.

The case tally has risen by 867 to 219,329. A further 2,143 patients have recovered, with the total number of recoveries topping 123,000.

Notably, Spain has recorded 43,956 coronavirus cases among medical personnel since the start of the outbreak.

India plans to arrange 64 flights to bring back 14,800 nationals held up in different countries. A plan drawn up by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs calls for New Delhi to send planes to all of the Gulf states, US, UK, the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia and Bangladesh during the first week of evacuation, beginning Thursday.

According to a press release by the Consulate General of India in Dubai, “The cost of tickets and other conditions for travel including quarantine requirements after reaching India and health requirement to board the flight will be conveyed in due course.”

The Office for UK National Statistics said 29,648 deaths had taken place as of 24 April in England and Wales with COVID-19 mentioned in death certificates.

Including deaths for Scotland and Northern Ireland, the toll on this measure now exceeds 30,000. — the highest number in Europe.

COVID-19: Russia records highest infection rate in past 24 hours

Russia has registered 10,102 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, taking the total to 155,370, the national coronavirus response center said Tuesday.

A day earlier, Russia reported 10,581 new cases. The record daily increase of 10,633 cases was recorded on Sunday.

“Over the past 24 hours, 10,102 COVID-19 cases have been registered in 83 regions. Of these, 4,961 (or 49.1 percent) have been detected actively, with people showing no clinical symptoms,” the center said in a statement.

This brings the total tally to 155,370 (+7 percent) in 85 regions across Russia.

Of all the new cases, 5,714 have been registered in Moscow, 822 in the Moscow Region, and 226 in St. Petersburg (compared to yesterday’s 5,795, 803 and 317, respectively).

The country’s COVID-19 death toll has increased by 95 (76 yesterday) to 1,451.

A total of 1,770 patients (1,456 yesterday) have recovered over the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of cured people to 19,865.

Over 4.4 COVID-19 tests conducted in Russia – Public Health Watchdog

More than 4.4 million tests for COVID-19 have been conducted in Russia since the start of the outbreak and over 222,500 people suspected of carrying the disease are currently under medical supervision, Russia’s public safety watchdog Rospotrebnadzor said on Tuesday.

“As of May 4, 4,460,357 laboratory tests for the coronavirus disease have been carried out,” the watchdog said in a daily bulletin.

Additionally, the number of people under medical supervision on suspicion of carrying the disease is currently 222,510, the watchdog reported.

As of Monday, 145,268 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Russia since the start of the outbreak.

In total, 10,581 new cases were reported over the preceding 24 hours, and 1,456 patients were discharged, taking the overall number of people who have recovered after contracting the disease to 18,095.

297 coronavirus patients discharged in Moscow raising total to 7,870

A further 297 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 have been discharged in Moscow over the past 24 hours after undergoing treatment, taking the overall number of people who have recovered from the disease in the Russian capital to 7,870, Moscow Deputy Mayor Anastasia Rakova said Tuesday.

Moscow Deputy Mayor Anastasia Rakova

“Over the past 24 hours, 297 more people have recovered in Moscow after undergoing treatment. The total number of people who have recovered from the infection has increased to 7,870,” Rakova said.

The deputy mayor added that medical professionals in the Russian capital are assessing the severity and symptoms of every single person who has contracted COVID-19, in accordance with Russian and international health care standards.

On Monday, Rakova announced that 544 people were discharged over the preceding 24 hours.

COVID-19 updates around the world

China Registers 2 New COVID-19 Cases, No Deaths in Past 24 Hours – Authorities

China has registered two new COVID-19 cases, with no people having died of the disease over the past 24 hours, the National Health Commission said on Sunday.

Of the new cases, one is imported. It was recorded in the city of Shanghai. The other is a case of local transmission in the northern province of Shanxi.

“The National Health Commission has received information from 31 provinces … about 82,877 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus infection, including 531 who are still ill (10 people are in serious condition), 77,713 people who have been discharged from hospitals, and 4,633 who have died,” the commission reported.

Over the past 24 hours, the country has detected 12 asymptomatic COVID-19 carriers. A total of 968 of such people remain under medical supervision. The commission started reporting figures on asymptomatic cases on April 1.

No new COVID-19 cases or deaths have been reported in Hubei, the province where the virus was first detected in China. Its hospitals are free of coronavirus patients.

Separately, Hong Kong accounts for 1,039 cumulative cases and four fatalities, and Macao for 45 cases. Taiwan has confirmed a total of 432 cases, including six deaths.

Russian Cabinet Lifts Temporary Ban on Exports of Masks, Personal Protective Equipment

The Russian government has lifted a temporary ban on exports of face masks and personal protective equipment, according to the relevant document published on the legal information portal on Saturday.

The decree takes effect immediately upon publication.

Russia suspended exports of a number of medical supplies amid the pandemic, except for items transported for personal use or as part of humanitarian aid. The measures were supposed to remain in effect until 1 June.

Number of COVID-19 Cases in India Rises by 2,644 to 39,980

India has confirmed a record 2,644 new COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, taking the total to 39,980, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said on Sunday.

The death toll has risen by 83 to 1,301.

A day before, the country reported 2,293 new cases, which was also a record daily increase, and 71 fatalities.

The number of recoveries has grown by 682 to 10,632.

India extended the tough lockdown for two additional weeks on May 1. The quarantine regime prescribes closure of educational institutions, entertainment centers and suspension of public transport, train and subway services. Moreover, the authorities have closed borders between states to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

In areas with less exposure to COVID-19, people are allowed to use public transport and taxi, albeit with certain restrictions.

Germany’s COVID-19 Tally Rises by 793 to 162,496, Deaths Top 6,600 – Koch Institute

Germany has confirmed 793 new COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, taking the total to 162,496, the Robert Koch Institute said Sunday.

The death toll has risen by 74 to 6,649 people in the given period.

A day earlier, the country recorded 945 new cases and 94 fatalities.

Over 130,000 COVID-19 patients have recovered in Germany since the beginning of the outbreak.

The most coronavirus cases have been recorded in Bavaria (42,792), North Rhine-Westphalia (33,428) and Baden-Wurttemberg (32,291). Berlin has 5,976 cases.

Russia reports 10,633 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours

Russia has registered a record 10,633 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, taking the total to 134,687, the national coronavirus response center said Sunday.

“Over the past 24 hours, 10,633 COVID-19 cases have been registered in 85 regions. Of these, 5,345 (or 50.3 percent) have been detected actively, with people showing no clinical symptoms,” the center said in a statement.

This brings the total tally to 134,687 (+8.6 percent) in 85 regions across Russia.

Of all the new cases, 5,948 have been registered in Moscow, 822 in the Moscow Region, and 295 in St. Petersburg.

The country’s COVID-19 death toll has increased by 58 to 1,280.

A total of 1,626 patients have recovered over the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of cured people to 16,639.

COVID-19: Russia PM undergoing medical supervision, works remotely

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, who was recently diagnosed with COVID-19, feels good and continues to work remotely under medical supervision, his spokesman said Sunday.

Mikhail Mishustin and Vladimir Putin

“Mikhail Vladimirovich remains under the supervision of doctors. He continues treatment and feels normal. He is working with documents and in active contact with his colleagues by telephone,” Boris Belyakov said.

On Thursday, Mishustin, 54, said that he had tested positive for the virus and would be treated at a medical care facility.

Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov has been appointed as Mishutin’s temporary replacement.

China facing new coronavirus cases near border with Russia

China is facing a new coronavirus flare-up along its remote northern border with Russia, far from the epicenter of Wuhan, where it has all but declared victory in the battle against the pandemic, AP reports.

The frontier has been sealed and emergency medical units rushed to the area to prevent travelers from bringing the virus back from overseas.

The virus originated in China, which is now striving to keep it out while the U.S. and other countries struggle to bring their own epidemics under control.

The long, porous border of sprawling Heilongjiang province and neighboring Inner Mongolia has much less travel than major cities like Beijing and Shanghai. But it is a popular alternative route into the country. Many Chinese live and work in Russia, where China has major investments encouraged by warm ties between Beijing and Moscow.

By Monday night, a field hospital was operating in the city of Suifenhe along the Russian border, equipped with a negative pressure lab to diagnose new cases. Staffed by 22 experts from the National Institute for Viral Disease Control and Prevention under the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, it will conduct nucleic acid tests and other forms of research to aid in virus control and prevention, allowing the city to test up to 1,000 cases per day, according to the China CDC.

Suifenhe, a city of just under 70,000 that is frozen-in for much of the year, has at least 243 imported COVID-19 cases out of nearly 1,000 confirmed and suspected cases, according to official figures. More than 100 people in the area have tested positive for the virus but showed no symptoms. Recent arrivals from Russia account for nearly half of China’s imported cases.

“We are facing a truly grave situation in the northeast as represented by Suifenhe,” National Health Commission expert Wang Bin said Monday at a news conference. “Up to now our medical resources in the area have just not been sufficient.”

China CDC said the field hospital has been supplied with negative pressure tents, nucleic acid extractors, virus detection kits, throat swab sampling tubes and thermal cyclers used to enhance segments of DNA via the polymerase chain reaction.

Suifenhe is roughly 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) northeast of Beijing. Its markets, selling warm clothing, cellphones and daily items, usually do a thriving business with Russian visitors starved for choice on their side of the border. That trade has gone quiet in recent weeks, dimming prospects for a sparsely populated region whose residents have been migrating to major cities seeking jobs and better living standards.

Russia requires 14-day quarantines for all travelers arriving in Primorsky Krai and its regional capital Pogranichny, across the border. It has closed hotels to visitors and is requiring travelers to have a pass showing they are not carrying the virus. Russia closed its land border to travelers from China in January.

US and Russia at the brink of war

Russia is concerned by how close Pentagon-funded biological warfare labs are to its borders at the same time as it battles the coronavirus, a Foreign Ministry source told reporters on Sunday.

The official slammed US authorities for blaming China for the COVID-19 pandemic and manipulating its data on the virus, and in turn, accused the United States of spinning the global health crisis into political attacks.

“We do have questions for the US. It would be nice to hear its justification for placing so many labs near Russia and China, instead of its playing propaganda games with the coronavirus”, the official said.

He admitted that Russia had no credible information on a US role in the emergence of the deadly virus, which was first reported in China last December, but said globalisation made transmission of viral diseases “a matter of hours”.

“Thus, the accusatory tone of remarks directed against China from Washington is outright baffling”, the official said, adding that the source of the virus was yet to be discovered.

China hit back at the United States this month, after getting a grip on the epidemic, saying that US military personnel might have introduced the new coronavirus to Wuhan during the 2019 Military World Games in October.

Putin approves law to amend the Russian constitution

Russians will decide about the approved amendments in a plebiscite to be held on April 22.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin Saturday signed the law on constitutional amendments that could allow him to run for reelection in 2024.

This legal instrument specifies the requirements to be met by the President, members of the Government and Parliament, and other positions related to national security.

The amendments limit to two the maximum of six-year presidential terms that the same citizen can occupy.

However, this provision does not apply “to the person who holds or has held the office of President of Russia at the time of entry into force” of the changes.

On Saturday, the Russian Senate approved the adoption of constitutional changes by the parliaments of 85 sub-national entities that make up the Russian Federation.

Putin will now send the law to the Constitutional Court (CC), which must rule on the compatibility of the amendments with such themes as civil rights and liberties.

The amendments also cover social issues such as the annual indexation of pensions, state support for large families, the inclusion of God in the constitutional text, and the definition of marriage as a heterosexual union.

The Russian president promised that these changes will only come into effect if the CC gives its go-ahead and if the Russians approve the amendments in a plebiscite on April 22.