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In Putin’s Russia, the parade comes before the election. Photo: Sergey Pyatakov/Host Photo Agency via Getty

Russians began voting Thursday on the most significant package of constitutional changes since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Why it matters: The most significant of all is the clearing of President Vladimir Putin's term limits to allow him to remain in power until 2036.

Setting the scene: The referendum was postponed from April due to the pandemic and comes on the heels of a massive military parade to mark the anniversary of victory in World War II.

  • Voting will be spread over a week and include precautions to limit the spread of the virus.
  • The proposal would also enshrine social conservatism — "faith in god," opposition to gay marriage — into the constitution.
  • It would also give parliament new powers, including to appoint the prime minister, "while giving the president a greater say over the work of courts and prosecutors," per the WSJ.

Where things stand: Putin has been criticized for his hands-off approach to coronavirus, but his proposal is nonetheless expected to pass.

  • A recent Levada Center poll shows 44% in favor and 32% opposed — but 55% of those certain to turn out plan to vote in favor.
  • Opposition leaders including Alexei Navalny are calling for a boycott. The Kremlin is offering incentives to boost turnout.

What to watch: The Levada Center's tracking poll puts Putin's approval rating at 59%, his lowest mark since Sep. 1999, 3 months before he became president.

Go deeper

Sep 23, 2020 - World

H.R. McMaster: Trump "making it easy" for Putin on U.S. election misinformation

Former National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster in Washington, D.C., in 2018. Photo: Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

H.R. McMaster told CNN Tuesday evening President Trump and other U.S. leaders are "making it easy" for Russian President Vladimir Putin to peddle conspiracy theories on the U.S. election and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

What he's saying: "It's just wrong ... it's really important for leaders to be responsible about this because, really, as you know Putin doesn't create these divisions in our society, he doesn't create these doubts, he magnifies them," Trump's former national security adviser told CNN's Jake Tapper.

The dark new reality in Congress

National Guard troops keep watch at security fencing. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

This is how bad things are for elected officials and others working in a post-insurrection Congress:

  • Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.) said she had a panic attack while grocery shopping back home.
  • Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said police may also have to be at his constituent meetings.
  • Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) told a podcaster he brought a gun to his office on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6 because he anticipated trouble with the proceedings that day.
Off the Rails

Episode 3: Descent into madness

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 3: The conspiracy goes too far. Trump's outside lawyers plot to seize voting machines and spin theories about communists, spies and computer software.

President Trump was sitting in the Oval Office one day in late November when a call came in from lawyer Sidney Powell. "Ugh, Sidney," he told the staff in the room before he picked up. "She's getting a little crazy, isn't she? She's really gotta tone it down. No one believes this stuff. It's just too much."