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Putin voting in local elections in September. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Russians have overwhelmingly approved constitutional changes that could allow President Vladimir Putin to stay in office for 16 more years, electoral officials said Wednesday, though independent observers have reported widespread irregularities, AP reports.

Why it matters: This is the most significant package of constitutional changes since the fall of the Soviet Union, and it will allow Putin — who has led Russia either as president or prime minister for 20 years — to serve two more terms after his current mandate ends in 2024. Critics have decried it as a power grab and cast doubt on the results.

The big picture: Elements of social conservatism — such as "faith in God" and opposition to gay marriage — will also be added into the constitution.

  • Parliament will receive new powers, including the ability to appoint the prime minister, while the president will have greater control over the judicial system.
  • There was no outside scrutiny of the vote, which took place over seven days, per the BBC. Opposition leaders like Alexei Navalny called for a boycott of the election, while the Kremlin offered incentives to boost turnout.

Go deeper: Read Axios' special report on 20 years of Putin

Go deeper

Oct 9, 2020 - World

Trump aiming for nuclear arms deal with Russia before Election Day

Trump and Putin the G20 last June. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

The Trump administration is pushing to get a nuclear arms control agreement with Russia ready for President Trump and Vladimir Putin to apply their signatures before Election Day.

Where things stand: The U.S. believes the prospective deal has buy-in from Putin — who has discussed arms control on a series of phone calls with Trump — and could be negotiated in as little as a week, according to a source familiar with the discussions.

Mike Allen, author of AM
1 hour ago - World

Courage vs. coddling with China

Peng Shuai of China serves during the China Open in Beijing in 2017. Photo: Andy Wong/AP

The women's professional tennis tour suspended tournaments in China Wednesday out of concern for Peng Shuai, on the same day that a top business voice made excuses for Beijing.

Why it matters: Ahead of February's Winter Olympics in Beijing, some sports figures are taking on the regime — while Big Business shrinks from confrontation with the world's second-largest economy.

2 hours ago - Sports

What to know about the first MLB lockout since 1995

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Hope you enjoyed the recent flurry of free-agent activity, because it's likely the last non-lockout-related MLB news for a while.

Driving the news: The owners locked out the players after the collective bargaining agreement expired at midnight last night, leading to MLB's ninth work stoppage — and first since 1995.