March 11 (UPI) -- Russian lawmakers voted Wednesday to approve a suite of constitutional amendments that will allow President Vladimir Putin to stay in power for another 16 years.
The State Duma, the lower house of the Federal Assembly, voted 383-0 in favor of the changes -- and the upper Federation Council voted 160-1. The amendments still require approval from Russia's Constitutional Court before it appears on an April 22 voter referendum.
Under the proposal, the Kremlin leader would still be limited to two six-year terms, but it effectively "resets" a candidate's presidential clock once the changes take effect. In other words, although Putin is set to end his presidency in 2024, the amendments would officially recognize that he's served zero terms as president. Two more terms would keep Putin in power until 2036.
Supporters in Putin's ruling United Russia Party said the changes are necessary to ensure stability, and insist they weren't designed to keep Putin in power.
"No one is saying that the amendments being proposed today are for Vladimir Putin," United Russia lawmaker Alexander Khinshtein said on state television. "But the head of state should have that ability to maintain stability in society."
Critics, however, say they don't buy it. Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny slammed the changes.
"Putin has been in power for 20 years, and yet he is going to run for the first time," he tweeted.
Anti-Putin activists have called for a March 21 protest in Moscow, saying, "The country where the government doesn't change for 20 years has no future."
Putin hasn't yet said he plans to run again in four years, but there was talk before the constitutional changes that he might retire.
The 67-year-old Putin is Russia's longest-serving leader since Josef Stalin. He previously side-stepped the two-term limit by temporarily passing the presidency to protege Dmitry Medvedev between 2008 and 2012.