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Russia Day: Putin makes first public appearance in weeks to celebrate country's national day

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Putin was last seen out in public in the beginning of May
Putin was last seen out in public in the beginning of May   -   Copyright  MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP
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Russia President Vladimir Putin made his first public appearance in weeks on Friday to mark the country's national day.

Russia Day, a public holiday, marks the country's declaration of sovereignty from the Soviet Union on June 12, 1990.

Putin, 67, celebrated the occasion by giving out awards in the Kremlin and raising the Russian tri-colour during a ceremony in western Moscow.

He also used the event to promote controversial constitutional reform that could see him remain in office until 2036.

Russia has the world's third-largest COVID-19 outbreak and has more than 510,000 cases. The country lifted its lockdown restrictions earlier this week.

The move comes as a constitutional vote is planned for July 1, which could extend Putin's grip on power for two more terms until 2036.

In his speech at Moscow's Victory Park, Putin told a crowd he was "confident" Russians would vote to support the constitutional amendments.

Mikhail Klimentyev/Copyright 2020 Sputnik
A July constitutional vote could see President Vladimir Putin run for another two termsMikhail Klimentyev/Copyright 2020 Sputnik

A concert will be held on Thursday the evening in Red Square. Authorities said those who attend will have to respect social distancing rules.

But mass gatherings were discouraged by Moscow's mayor Sergei Sobyanin on Thursday.

"This is a major risk for you, your children, and your loved ones," he said in televised remarks.

Dmitri Lovetsky/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press.
Various celebrations are marking Russia Day around the country.Dmitri Lovetsky/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press.