MOSCOW          -          A meeting Thursday chaired by President Vladimir Putin on amending the Russian Constitution featured proposed changes on a variety of topics, ranging from the protection of traditional values to the country’s status as a nuclear power. Putin raised the idea of constitutional amendments last month, and lawmakers quickly gave tentative approval to his proposals for granting extra powers to parliament while maintaining a strong presidential authority.

His proposed changes were widely seen as part of Putin’s efforts to extend his grip on power after his current presidential term ends in 2024. The drafts don’t reveal what position he might take next. Putin created a working group of lawyers, activists, politicians, cultural figures and athletes to discuss the changes in parallel with lawmakers. He said Thursday that the amendments only would take effect if Russia’s citizens approved them in a vote.

At the meeting, some group members offered their own ideas for amendments on top of Putin’s.

One member suggested adding language to the constitution that defines a family as a union of a man and a woman, an idea in sync with Putin’s opposition to same-sex marriages. Putin said the suggested wording would violate the rights of families led by single parents, but the Russian leader reaffirmed his strong disapproval of gay parents. “As long as I remain the president, there will be no Parent No. 1 and Parent No. 2 here,” he said. “There will be a mom and a dad.”

Another working group member suggested that the constitution refer to Russia’s massive nuclear arsenal as a tool to deter aggression. Putin responded that even though the nuclear weapons play a key role now, future weapons could overtake them as a top deterrent.

For the first time, Vladimir Putin announced possible amendments to the Constitution during his press conference on 19 December 2019.

He said that he is ready to discuss changing the constitutional norms. In particular, he spoke about strengthening the role of the Parliament and canceling the clause “in a row” from the article regulating the maximum number of terms of the presidency (it is thanks to this reservation that Putin was able to be elected President again in 2012, receiving an actual third term of the presidency). In more detail, Putin spoke about the amendments during his address to the Parliament on 15 January 2020. In addition to the amendments mentioned during the press conference, Putin also proposed a number of amendments to improve social policy and public administration.