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Putin uses state of nation speech to flag referendum on constitutional change

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President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday proposed a referendum on amending Russia’s constitution to increase the powers of parliament while maintaining a strong presidential system.

“I consider it necessary to conduct a vote by the country’s citizens on an entire package of proposed amendments to the country’s constitution,” Putin said in his annual address to lawmakers, without specifying any date for a vote.

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“We will be able to build a strong prosperous Russia only on the basis of respect for public opinion,” said the 67-year-old leader, who has been in power for the past 20 years.

“Together we will certainly change life for the better.”

Putin called for a boost to the powers of parliament, making lawmakers responsible for choosing the prime minister and senior cabinet members.

“This will increase the role and significance of the country’s parliament,” Putin said.

A president will not have the power to reject the proposed candidacies, Putin said, but will be able to later remove the prime minister and senior cabinet members.

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“Russia must remain a strong presidential republic,” Putin said.

The role of governors would also be enhanced, he added.

He suggested that a clause limiting the president to two successive terms could be changed, but did not specify how.

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In December, Putin indicated he was in favour of removing the word “successive” from the clause.

Putin also suggested a constitutional change that would enshrine the priority of domestic legislation over international law.

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Russia last conducted a referendum in 1993 when it adopted the constitution under Putin’s predecessor Boris Yeltsin.

Image: SPUTNIK/AFP / Alexey NIKOLSKY


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Key winners at the 2020 Grammy Awards

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Here is a list of winners in key categories at the 62nd annual Grammy Awards, which took place Sunday in Los Angeles.

Teenage goth-pop iconoclast Billie Eilish was the big winner with a total of five golden statuettes, including a clean sweep of the "big four" prizes.

Lizzo, the top nomination getter, won three prizes -- best pop solo performance, best urban contemporary album and best traditional R&B performance.

Album of the Year: Billie Eilish, "When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?"

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How the world discovered the Nazi death camps

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Images of what the Allies found when they liberated the first Nazi death camps towards the end of World War II brought the horror of the Holocaust to global attention.

Many of the ghastly pictures were at first held back from the broader public, partly out of concern for those with missing relatives.

The concentration and extermination camps were liberated one by one as the Allied armies advanced on Berlin in the final days of the 1939-1945 war.

The first was Majdanek in eastern Poland, which was freed on July 24, 1944 by the advancing Soviet Red Army.

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John McEnroe blasts ‘homophobic’ Margaret Court ahead of Grand Slam honor

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John McEnroe blasted fellow tennis great Margaret Court's "offensive and homophobic" views on Monday as the Australian Open prepared to mark 50 years since her calendar-year Grand Slam.

The American said Court, 77, was Tennis Australia's "crazy aunt" and that marking the golden anniversary of her 1970 Grand Slam was a "nightmare" for the governing body.

"There's only one thing longer than the list of Margaret Court's list of achievements: it's her list of offensive and homophobic statements," McEnroe said in a no-holds-barred video for Eurosport.

"Margaret Court is actually a ventriloquist, using the Bible as a dummy to say whatever she wants," added the seven-time Grand Slam winner.

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