Russian president Vladimir Putin has signed legislation that will grant former presidents lifetime immunity after they leave the Kremlin.
The bill, which was published online on Tuesday, gives former presidents and their families immunity from prosecution for crimes committed during their lifetime. They will also get an exemption from questioning by police or investigators, as well as searches or arrests.
Putin's Constitutional Amendments to Remain President Until 2036
The new law follows sweeping amendments introduced by Putin to Russia's political system this year. Among other things, it allows him to run for two more six-year terms in the Kremlin if he chooses, which means he will remain president until 2036
Before the bill became law, former presidents were immune to prosecution only for crimes committed during their term. As part of the legislation, a former president can still be stripped of immunity if accused of treason or other serious offences and the charges are confirmed by the supreme and constitutional courts.
Last month the pending bills sparked rumours that the longtime Russian leader was planning to step down because of poor health – a claim the Kremlin later denied.
On Tuesday, the lower house State Duma also passed legislation making information about employees of Russia's judicial system, law enforcement and regulatory and military bodies confidential.
Poisoning of Alexei Navalny
News of the new bill comes a day after Putin critic Alexei Navalny said he tricked an alleged security agent into admitting that the Federal Security Service tried to kill him with a nerve agent in August.
Navalny said he had gained access to the security agent's phone number from leaked logs and travel records and claimedthe agent admitted to applying the poison to his underwear.
The alleged Kremlin agent, Konstantin Kudryavtsev, was one of the agents who was part of an elite team dispatched to poison and ultimately assassinate Navalny while he visited the Russian city of Tomsk in August, according to a joint investigation by the research group Bellingcat, CNN, Russian media outlet The Insider and German weekly Der Spiegel. However, plan failed when Navalny survived the attack.