Putin wants constitutional ban on Russia handing land to foreign powers

MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin wants to amend the constitution to make it illegal for Russia to give away any part of its territory to a foreign power, a proposal likely to irritate Japan and Ukraine that have territorial disputes with Moscow.

FILE PHOTO: Russia's President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a news conference after the G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan June 29, 2019. Yuri Kadobnov/Pool via REUTERS

The amendment is one of an array of constitutional changes proposed by Putin as part of a shake-up of the political system that critics say may be designed to keep him in power after he is due to leave the Kremlin in 2024.

Putin, who has dominated Russian politics for two decades, submitted his proposed amendments to parliament on Monday.

If adopted, the territorial amendment would make it unconstitutional for Putin or any of his successors in the Kremlin to give ground in territorial rows with Japan and Ukraine without first changing the constitution.

Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. It has also been in a decades-long dispute with Tokyo over ownership of a chain of islands in the Pacific that Moscow seized from Japan at the end of World War Two.

Russia has moved to integrate Crimea into its economy and infrastructure, though the peninsula is still widely recognized internationally as Ukrainian territory and Western governments have said Moscow must give it back.

“Actions ... directed toward the transfer of parts of Russia’s territory, and also calls for such actions, are not allowed,” the text of Putin’s constitutional proposal says.

The amendment stipulates that it would not affect the “delimitation, demarcation, redemarcation of Russia’s state borders with neighboring states”.

A separate amendment stipulates that the office of president can only be held by a Russian citizen aged at least 35 who has not held citizenship of, or official residency rights in, any other country.

However, it proposes making an exception for people if they are from countries or parts of countries that have been absorbed into Russia.

Reporting by Tom Balmforth; editing by Gareth Jones