January 17, 2020 / 2:30 PM / a month ago

Kremlin critic calls for protest against Putin's constitutional reforms

FILE PHOTO: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny delivers a speech during a rally in Moscow, Russia, September 29, 2019. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov/File Photo

MOSCOW (Reuters) - An opposition politician in Moscow urged Russians on Friday to take to the streets this weekend to protest against sweeping constitutional reforms floated by President Vladimir Putin.

The proposed reforms, which triggered the resignation of the prime minister and government, are widely seen as giving Putin, 67, scope to extend his grip on power once he leaves the presidency in 2024.

Describing the changes as akin to a “state coup”, Yulia Galyamina, a Moscow city councillor, urged residents to speak out by joining a rally on Sunday that was already due to be held to mark the murder of a journalist and lawyer 11 years ago.

“The proposed changes to our constitution discriminate against the whole country and are repression against all of us,” Galyamina wrote on social media.

It was not immediately clear how much traction Galyamina’s call would get in a city where a spate of big protests calling for election freedoms flared last year before fading again.

Alexei Navalny, one of Russia’s most prominent opposition politicians, spoke out against her idea, blaming the constitution itself for having allowed the Kremlin to dominate the political landscape.

Navalny didn’t name any particular area of the constitution, which demarcates a strong presidential system, but said it had allowed the authorities to control elections and hike the pension age without repercussion.

“There’s no need to defend it,” he said.

Reporting by Tom Balmforth Editing by Mark Heinrich

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