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Russia s Putin appeals to patriotism as key vote reaches climax

Russia s Putin appeals to patriotism as key vote reaches climax
World
All week, millions of Russians have been voting to reform their constitution, many using polling stations set up on tree stumps, park benches and even car boots.

Giant prize draws have helped entice them to the ballot, with the chance of winning everything from shopping vouchers to a car or flat.

Opposition figures have dismissed the whole process as a farce, stretched over a week with no proper monitoring or independent scrutiny.

But for the Kremlin the amendments are vital. The vote will clear the way for Vladimir Putin to stay in power up to 2036, if he chooses.

Not that the president mentioned that in his address to the nation ahead of the final day of voting.

"We are voting for the country we want to live in… and which we want to hand down to our children," Mr Putin declared, standing beneath a giant, ghostly new statue of a Soviet soldier, to underline the "patriotic" theme that runs through this process.

EPA

The sovereignty of Russia is supported by our feelings of genuine patriotism… as well as respect for our history, culture, language and traditions

The biggest overhaul of the constitution since 1993, this vote is partly about setting down Vladimir Putin s vision of Russia: spelling out the values and priorities he has established during two decades in the Kremlin.

"Putin can t just say to himself, I need to do everything possible to stay in power! ," argues Tatiana Stanovaya, the head of R.Politik, a political think-tank.

Image caption "We re choosing the future today," reads this notice in a block of flats, with the word Yes above it

"People try to hide the low things they re doing within something more grandiose and positive. So he says instead, I want to create a great Russia, and stay in power too ."

The new constitution includes articles promoting a patriotic education, reiterating the ban on same-sex marriage and adding explicit mention of God - all in line with the increasing cultural conservatism of Vladimir Putin s rule.

Image caption Wednesday is the final day for Russians to vote on the constitutional reforms

Those "ideological" articles, alongside "social" ones like minimum wage guarantees, are the changes actively discussed on state TV and by celebrity endorsers.

By contrast, the amendments allowing Vladimir Putin to restart the clock on his presidency when his current term ends in 2024 - and so run for twice more for president - are barely mentioned.

They were left off the initial information on the vote altogether.

The amendments cover dozens of existing articles, and add several new ones. They fall broadly into three categories and many enshrine things in the constitution that are already federal law:

Banning any action aimed at the "expropriation" of Russian territory, or calls for that.

Protecting the "historical truth" of the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945) and banning any "belittling" of the feats of those who fought.
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