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Russia's Putin says he opposes unlimited presidential term

MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin said Saturday that he opposes the idea of an unlimited term in office for the country's leader like the system that existed in the Soviet Union.

Putin's comment at a meeting with World War II veterans in St. Petersburg came days after he called for constitutional changes that could help him remain in power once his presidential term ends in 2024.

When a veteran at Saturday's meeting proposed not having term limits for Russia's president, Putin responded that “it would be very disturbing to return to the situation of the mid-1980s, with the leaders of the state, one by one, staying in power until the end of their days.”

There has been uncertainty about Russia's future political course since Putin suggested in his Wednesday state-of-the-nation address amending the constitution to allow lawmakers to name prime ministers and Cabinet members. The president currently holds the authority to make those appointments.

Observers speculated that after increasing the powers of parliament and the Cabinet and curtailing presidential authority, Putin might repeat a strategy he used before to stay in charge - shifting into the prime minister's seat.

Putin first became president in 2000, and moved to the prime minister's office in 2008 when constitutional limits prevented him from seeking a third term. His chosen successor as president, Dmitry Medvedev, was widely seen as less influential than Putin.

Medvedev, who became prime minister after Putin returned to the presidency, submitted his resignation Wednesday after Putin outlined his constitutional proposals. Putin named the head of the national tax service, a technocrat unlikely to chart an independent course, as the new premier.