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Russian government resigns as Putin seeks constitutional shakeup

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Image: Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual state of the na
Russian President Vladimir Putin on screen as he delivers his annual state of the nation address to the Federal Assembly in Moscow, Russia on Wednesday.   -  
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Maxim Shemetov
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Russia's prime minister and its entire government resigned on Wednesday as part of sweeping constitutional changes that could see President Vladimir Putin extend his hold on power.

In his annual state-of-the-nation speech, Putin said he favored changing the constitution to hand the State Duma, the lower house of Parliament, the power to choose Russia's prime minister and other key positions.

"Of course these are very serious changes to the political system," Putin said, adding that he thought Parliament and civil society was ready for the changes.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, a longtime trusted ally of Putin's, said on Wednesday that the government he heads was resigning to give the president room to carry out changes he wants to make to the constitution.

Medvedev made the announcement on state TV, sitting next to Putin who thanked Medvedev for his work.

Putin, who has been in power for nearly two decades as either president or prime minister, was due to finish his fourth presidential term in 2024, after which the constitution would bar him from immediately running for president again.

But in recent months, there has been speculation in Russian media about whether Putin will attempt to stay in power beyond 2024 without changing the constitution or forming a union with friendly neighbor, Belarus.

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