Putin to Keep Supreme Court Head in Power

Russian President Vladimir Putin introduced in the State Duma a bill canceling the mandatory retirement age for the head of the Supreme Court, Kremlin’s press service said on Thursday.

The bill, which is expected to be supported by the lower chamber, paves the way for Vyacheslav Lebedev, 68, to indefinitely prolong his 23-year stay in power, reaffirming his status as the longest-serving official at the top of a branch of power in post-Soviet Russia.

The draft bill proposes to exclude heads of the Supreme Court from the rule that sets the maximum age for judges at 70 years.

The State Duma will fast-track the bill and likely approve it, given that it earlier canceled the age limit for the head of the Constitutional Court, said Dmitry Vyatkin, deputy head of the Duma’s Constitution and State Affairs Committee.

He gave no timeframe, but said that he “personally would definitely have supported the draft bill.”

Lebedev, a Muscovite and a graduate of the Moscow State University, has headed the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation since 1989, when the republic was still part of the Soviet Union. He largely stayed away from public politics, never contradicting the Kremlin, including on causes célèbre such as the Yukos affair or the Magnitsky case.

Critics accuse the Russian court system of becoming subservient to the executive under Putin’s reign in the 2000s, rubber-stamping decisions as required by the Kremlin or often corrupt local authorities. Only about 1 percent of all court verdicts in Russia were acquittals in 2010, the latest year for which statistics are available.


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