MOSCOW – Valentina Tereshkova was hailed as a hero when she became the first woman in space in 1963.
Now 83, she has became a hate figure for some Russians after putting forward a constitutional amendment that could allow President Vladimir Putin to stay in power until 2036.
The lower house, the State Duma, on Wednesday gave its final approval to the move as part of a package of Putin-backed constitutional amendments.
On Friday, the RIA news agency cited senior lawmaker Andrei Klishas as saying that all of the 85 regional parliaments had already voted in favor of the amendments.
“The Federation Councilm” the upper house, “has received the results of voting in all 85 regional parliaments,” said Klishas. “They are all positive.” The 85 regions include two that are part of Russian-controlled Crimea, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
Putin in January unveiled a major shake-up of politics and a constitutional overhaul, which the Kremlin billed as a redistribution of power from the presidency to parliament.
Then Putin made a dramatic appearance in parliament this past week to back the new amendment that would allow him to ignore a current constitutional ban on his running again in 2024.
His intervention raised the prospect of him remaining in power until 2036.
Russia’s constitutional court must now examine the constitutional changes, which are due to be put to a nationwide vote in April.
At least two online petitions have been launched against Tereshkova, one calling for a street named after her to be renamed and another asking for one of her honorific titles to be revoked.
She has also been widely mocked by critics on social media.
“Tereshkova — the first woman who bravely traveled into cosmic cold and darkness, and then brought the entire country there,” read one message on Twitter reposted by Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
Opposition politician Dmitry Gudkov wrote: “This whole obscene fuss over the constitution was conceived for the sake of one moment … two new terms for Putin. Tereshkova, who still remembers (Soviet dictator Josef) Stalin well, did not disappoint.”
A household name in Russia, Tereshkova, who holds an array of state honors including a Hero of the Soviet Union medal, became the world’s first female astronaut in June 1963, spending 71 hours in orbit aboard a Soviet Vostok spacecraft.
A staunch backer of Putin and the traditional values he has espoused, she has been a lawmaker in the lower chamber of parliament since 2011.
Her amendment has been applauded by Putin’s admirers, but critics have accused him of plotting to stay in power for life and have blamed Tereshkova.
One petition, which has garnered nearly 8,000 signatures, calls for Tereshkova to be stripped of her title of “honorary citizen” of Tutayev, a town near where she was born northeast of Moscow.
“Tereshkova actively took part in the show that some people are calling a state coup,” it says, adding she had discredited the honor of the town’s residents.
Another, with over 3,000 signatures, calls for a Tereshkova Street in the town of Artyomovsky to be renamed.
Neither of the petitions has legal force.
Putin allies, including the leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, and the speaker of parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin, have rallied to her defense, praising her proposal and decrying the attacks on her as unpatriotic and orchestrated from abroad.
Tereshkova has branded her critics unpatriotic.
“I don’t even want to talk about these people who don’t love the country,” she was quoted as saying by the RIA news agency.