Russian politicians overwhelmingly approved amendments to the constitution submitted by President Vladimir Putin, including the option for him to run for two more terms in the Kremlin.
About 160 senators in the upper house Federation Council backed the constitutional reforms on Wednesday with one voting against and three abstaining.
They must now be approved by two-thirds of Russian regional parliaments before being put to a public vote on April 22.
In a speech ahead of the Federation Council’s vote, speaker Valentina Matviyenko called the passing of the amendments “one of the most important issues in [Russia’s] modern history”.
Putin “must have the right to participate in new competitive elections”, she said.
“He raised Russia from its knees [and] is considered one of the world’s great leaders,” she said.
She hailed the amendment introduced on Tuesday that would give Putin the chance to run again when his current term ends in 2024, by effectively resetting the clock on previous presidential terms.
Putin opened the door to constitutional changes that would allow him to remain in power until 2036, but said he favoured term limits once the country became politically “mature”.
Putin, 67, who in January unveiled a major shake-up of Russian politics and a constitutional overhaul, is required by the constitution to step down in 2024 when his second sequential and fourth presidential term ends.
Opposition activists said they planned to protest what some called the rewriting of the constitution in the interests of the ruling elite.
One group said it had applied for permission to stage a demonstration on March 21.
A former KGB officer, Putin has dominated the Russian political landscape for two decades.