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Supreme Ruler Putin? Kremlin non-committal on proposed new job description

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Kremlin said on Wednesday that President Vladimir Putin had no view on a proposal that would see his job description change to Supreme Ruler from head of state after a government commission said it was considering the idea.

FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, January 23, 2020. Alaa Badarneh/Pool via REUTERS

The title change is one of an array of possible alterations to the Russian constitution put forward by members of a government commission set up after Putin earlier this month said he wanted to change the Russian basic law.

Putin, 67, proposed his own constitutional changes, which were widely seen as giving him scope to retain influence once his current presidential term expires in 2024, though he has said he does not favor the Soviet-era practice of having leaders for life who die in office.

The overhaul, which triggered a change in government, also cemented Putin’s control of the transition process and was seen by some as an attempt to reduce intra-clan infighting between now and 2024, while allowing Putin to show he is responding to public discontent after years of belt-tightening.

The State Duma, the Russian lower house of parliament, has already given its backing to his reforms in a preliminary vote. The government commission is considering further possible changes.

“There are... some very curious proposals among those put forward. For instance, they proposed renaming the position of head of state to ‘Supreme leader’,” Pavel Krasheninnikov, the government commission’s co-chair, told the Rossiiskaya Gazeta government newspaper.

When asked about the idea on Wednesday, the Kremlin was non-committal, calling it a “new initiative” and one of various proposals that may or may not be implemented.

“Right now all this is at the discussion stage,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “President Putin has no view on this.”

Other proposals include formally recognizing Russia’s status as a “victorious power” in World War Two and recognizing Orthodox Christianity as the country’s main religion, the Kommersant newspaper reported.

“Naturally some (of the proposals) will be eliminated, some will be accepted and from this the commission’s sought-after result will appear,” Peskov told reporters.

Russia’s TASS news agency said Vladimir Zhironovsky, leader of the nationalist pro-Kremlin LDPR party, had suggested the president be known as the Supreme Leader many times in order to move away from job titles derived from foreign languages.

Editing by William Maclean