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Vladimir Putin’s surprise move to allow himself to remain as president until 2036 caught even many Kremlin insiders off guard, leaving some feeling deceived by his motivation for changing the constitution.

His sudden reversal — approving a plan that he’d long publicly resisted — was a blow to some senior officials’ hopes that he would find a more elegant way to retain influence once his current term ends in 2024. Some drew parallels to the clumsily announced move in 2011 that saw him retake the presidency from protege Dmitry Medvedev, who had fueled expectations of liberalization that were dashed with Putin’s return.

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