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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

Dave Lawler, author of World
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.

45 mins ago - Health

All U.S. adults now eligible for COVID-19 vaccine

Healthcare workers getting COVID-19 vaccines on Dec. 16, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

All 50 U.S. states, plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, have now made U.S. adults over the age of 16 eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, meeting President Biden's April 19 deadline.

Why it matters: The landmark speaks to the increased pace of the national vaccination campaign, but will increase pressure on the federal government, states and pharmaceutical companies to provide adequate vaccine supply and logistics.

Minneapolis braces for a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial

National Guard soldiers posted on a street corner near downtown. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Minneapolis is waking up to images of an occupied city on Monday, as the city and the world await a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial.

What it's like: Residents running errands, picking up dinner and heading to the dog park in recent days encountered heavily-armed National Guard troops stationed throughout the city.