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Russian PM, government resign as Putin proposes constitutional changes

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and his Cabinet resigned Jan. 15 after President Vladimir Putin proposed major amendments to the country's constitution, a move that raised speculation that he plans to maintain power after the end of his term.

Medvedev said the proposed constitutional amendments, which Putin suggested be put in a plebiscite, would bring "significant changes" to the balance of power between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the government, Russian news agency TASS reported.

"In this context, it is evident that we, as the government of the Russian Federation, should provide our country's president with an opportunity to take all the necessary decisions in these conditions," Medvedev said.

Putin endorsed Mikhail Mishustin, the head of the country's Federal Tax Service, for prime minister.

Putin's proposed overhaul of the constitution could signal his intention to assume a political role that would enable him to stay in power after his presidency ends in 2024, the Associated Press noted.

Putin delivered his annual national address earlier in the day and called for constitutional changes to increase the powers of the Parliament, allowing lawmakers to name prime ministers and Cabinet officials, a responsibility that currently falls under the president, newswires reported.

The president should keep the power of dismissing the prime minister and Cabinet members and appointing top defense and security officials, Putin also said.

Putin's proposals also include limiting a future president to two terms from four and enforcing stricter residency requirements for presidential candidates, The Guardian reported.

The U.S. dollar was up 0.2% against the Russian ruble as of 10:30 a.m. ET, while the euro was trading nearly 0.5% higher.