New bill set to expand Russian ex-presidents' immunity from prosecution

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FILE PHOTO: Russian President Putin attends a ceremony at the monument of Minin and Pozharsky, marking the National Unity Day, in Moscow
FILE PHOTO: Russian President Putin attends a ceremony at the monument of Minin and Pozharsky, marking the National Unity Day, in Moscow

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian ex-presidents' immunity from criminal prosecution could be extended to any offences committed in their lifetimes, not merely while in office, under a bill submitted to parliament on Thursday.

The bill, published on a government website, is one of several being introduced following constitutional reforms that, among other things, allow President Vladimir Putin to run again when his term ends in 2024.

The draft legislation is being carefully parsed for clues as to what Putin, who has dominated Russian politics for more than two decades, plans to do in 2024.

Former presidents already enjoy lifetime immunity for crimes committed in office under legislation adopted after Russia's first post-Soviet president, Boris Yeltsin, handed the reins of power to Putin at the turn of the century.

The new bill would also make it harder to revoke ex-presidents' expanded immunity.

It would require the upper house of parliament to vote overwhelmingly to revoke it on the strength of accusations by the lower house that the president had committed treason or another serious crime.

The bill will become law if the lower house votes to approve it in three readings, the upper house backs it, and Putin then signs it.

(Reporting by Tom Balmforth and Maria Kiselyova; Editing by Kevin Liffey)