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5 Nov, 2020 11:05

Putin preparing for power transition? Proposed law could grant former presidents immunity, even for actions before taking office

Putin preparing for power transition? Proposed law could grant former presidents immunity, even for actions before taking office

A bill submitted to the Russian parliament on Thursday would make all former presidents immune to prosecution, protecting Vladimir Putin from being taken to court for criminal or administrative offenses after leaving the Kremlin.

According to the proposal, any former Russian head of state, as well as their family members, would not only be immune from prosecution, but they could not legally be arrested, imprisoned, searched, or interrogated. The law would also protect Dmitry Medvedev, the only other ex-president still alive.

If passed, the bill would stretch current presidential immunity back to before the person took office, meaning Putin could not be held responsible for anything before his first term in 2000. The protection would also apply to the time he served as prime minister, between 2008 and 2012.

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Under the current legislation, the ex-head of state cannot be held accountable for acts committed during their presidential term, but offenses committed outside of this timeframe are still prosecutable.

For some, the bill will be interpreted as a clear sign that Putin is preparing the ground to leave the post of president sooner rather than later, despite a recent constitutional amendment allowing him to potentially stay in power until 2036, should he win re-election.

The new law still leaves open the possibility of prosecution for more serious crimes, such as treason. For this to happen, charges would have to be confirmed by the country's Supreme and Constitutional Courts, before being passed through the State Duma. The upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, would then vote on lifting the president's immunity.

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Last month, a bill submitted to Russia's parliament included the provision to allow ex-presidents to become senators for life following their term of office. This suggestion also sparked speculation that Putin is looking to leave his role as head of state but wants to remain involved in the country's politics. A similar system exists in Italy, where all former presidents are given the title of senator for life.

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