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

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Exclusive: Trump never raised Russia's Taliban bounties with Putin

President Trump has never confronted Vladimir Putin with intelligence indicating Russia paid the Taliban to kill U.S. troops, he told “Axios on HBO” in an interview on Tuesday. 

Why it matters: Democrats have seized on the issue, and Trump's reluctance to discuss it, as evidence he’s unwilling to challenge Putin even when American lives are at stake.

Jul 29, 2020 - Podcasts

Podcast: Trump never asked Putin about bounties

In an exclusive interview for "Axios on HBO," President Trump told Jonathan Swan he never confronted Vladimir Putin about intelligence indicating Russia paid the Taliban to kill U.S. troops. The full interview with President Trump will air on HBO on Monday August 3rd at 11pm.

11 mins ago - Science

NOAA warns of potential for "extremely active" Atlantic hurricane season

Hurricane Isaias makes landfall in Garden City, South Carolina. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasters warned Thursday of the potential for an "extremely active" hurricane season in the Atlantic.

The big picture: The agency expects 19 to 25 named storms — with three to six major hurricanes — during the six-month hurricane season, which ends Nov. 30. The average season produces only 12 named storms.