World

Coronavirus delays Russian vote on Putin staying in energy

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Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin has postponed a vote on constitutional change that would allow him to stay in power, because of coronavirus concerns.

He said the public vote – previously due to be held on 22 April – would be delayed until a “later date”.

The proposed changes include scrapping a ban on allowing Mr Putin to run for office again.

The changes have already been approved by parliament and Russia’s constitutional court.

They would give Mr Putin – who is serving his fourth presidential term and has dominated Russian politics for two decades – the right to serve two more consecutive terms.

On Wednesday Russia confirmed 163 new cases, bringing its total to 658. So far no one has died from the virus there, officials say.

“The absolute priority for us is the health, life and safety of people. Therefore I believe that the vote should be postponed until a later date,” Mr Putin said.

Mr Putin also announced that Russians would not work next week “to slow the speed” of the infection.

But he warned that it was impossible to prevent any spread of the virus at all in Russia because of the country’s size.

The Russian economy was also under serious pressure because of the virus, Mr Putin said.

During their week off employees would continue to be paid and key services would continue, he said.

He also announced extended welfare support, including for families with children and those who had lost jobs.

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