Vladimir Putin, president until 2036?

MOSCOW — Vladimir Putin has backed a proposal to “reset” the two-term presidential limit once planned constitutional changes are adopted, meaning he could remain in power until 2036.

In a surprise speech in parliament on Tuesday, Russia’s leader of two decades tempered the fevered speculation about his future that began when he called for constitutional changes in January. Debate about what position Putin could hold once his current term ends in 2024 now appears redundant as he has signaled he will stay in the Kremlin.

If the constitutional change is approved, it would reset Putin’s presidential term count back to zero, meaning he could stand in the next two elections. If Putin does run for president in the 2024 and 2030 elections, he could be in charge longer than any ruler since Peter the Great, surpassing even Joseph Stalin. By the time of the 2036 election, Putin will be 83.

“He’s going for the record,” Andrei Kolesnikov, analyst for domestic politics at Carnegie Center Moscow, told POLITICO. “This is a personalized, harshly authoritarian regime, it’s not a hybrid. It’s the personal power of one person, absolutely vertical, which is being continued in an unconstitutional manner.”

Tuesday’s announcement began not with Putin but with Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space and a national hero who is now a member of parliament for the ruling United Russia party — suggesting that the Kremlin had prepared the decision with the best public optics in mind.

Tereshkova was met with applause when she called on the parliament to stop “circling and overthinking” potential constitutional amendments and either remove the presidential term limit or “put into law the possibility for the current president to be reelected in accordance with the revitalized constitution.”

The speaker, a former top aide to Putin, duly adjourned parliament to consult with his former boss, and less than an hour later the president himself strode into the chamber.

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