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Russian President Vladimir Putin postpones public vote on reforms over coronavirus


MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday the public vote on his constitutional reforms must be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic and declared next week a public holiday.

"I believe the voting must be postponed to a later date," Putin said of the April 22 plebiscite in a rare televised address in which he called on Russians to show solidarity.

The reforms, proposed by the president and approved by lawmakers over the last few months, would reset presidential term limits and potentially allow Putin, in power for 20 years, to stay in office until 2036.

Putin also took the unusual step of declaring next week a non-working week.

"The long holidays are provided to slow the speed of expansion of the disease," he said.

Unlike other countries, Russia has not yet introduced mandatory at home sheltering. Putin urged Russians to help each other and follow instructions given by medics and the authorities.

"All measures that are being taken and will be taken will work, will have results if we show unity and understanding of the difficulty of the current situation," he said.

"The strength of society consists of this solidarity," he said.

Russia recorded its biggest spike in infections so far on Wednesday, with 163 new cases for a total of 658 across the country.