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Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a bill that will grant lifetime immunity to former presidents, according to reports.
Lawmakers first introduced the bill in early November, looking to expand the current presidential protections beyond the president’s term.
The finalized bill was posted online Tuesday, and includes immunity for a former president’s family members, as well, The Guardian reported.
The former presidents cannot be detained, arrested or subject to searches, interrogations or bodily searches.
Russian Presidential candidate, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a rally of his supporters at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow on February 23, 2012. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Thursday vowed he would not allow foreign powers to interfere in Russia’s internal affairs and predicted victory in an ongoing battle for its future. "We will not allow anyone interfere in our internal affairs," Putin said in a speech to more than 100,000 people packed into the stadium and its grounds at Moscow’s Luzhniki stadium ahead of March 4 presidential elections. . AFP PHOTO/AFP PHOTO / YURI KADOBNOV (Photo credit should read YURI KADOBNOV/AFP via Getty Images)
The bill also provides the president with a lifetime seat in the federation council or senate, which will grant immunity from prosecution.
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A former president can be stripped of immunity if accused of treason or similarly grave crimes and if the supreme and constitutional courts confirm the charges, but that process will not be straightforward: the lower house of Parliament must file accusations, which the upper house must then overwhelmingly vote to support and both the constitutional and state courts must confirm.
The changes are part of wider constitutional reforms following a nationwide vote that will allow Putin to remain as president until 2036, Al Jazeera reported.
However, it is not clear if Putin will run for re-election in 2024.
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Shortly after the submission of the bill in November, reports in the U.K. alleged that Putin was preparing to step down due to health issues, with some reports claiming that the Russian president was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
Russian officials were quick to dismiss the claims, with a Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov arguing that "everything is fine" with Putin and labeling the reports as "absolute nonsense," the Independent reported at the time.
When asked about his plans for the next election, Putin said he will do what is in the country’s best interests, according to The Moscow Times.
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The only other living Russian who might take advantage of the new measures would be Dmitry Medvedev, who served as president from 2008 to 2012 but stepped aside when Putin returned to office.
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