By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV | MOSCOW

President Vladimir Putin is fast-tracking work on constitutional changes that could keep him in power well past the end of his term in 2024 and lawmakers have quickly sealed his choice for new prime minister.

Speaking to a working group created to draft constitutional changes on Thursday, Putin cast his proposals as a way to strengthen parliament and to bolster democracy.

Kremlin critics describe the proposed changes as an attempt by Putin to secure his rule for life. Putin proposed a set of sweeping amendments to the country's constitution Wednesday. Hours later he sacked Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who was prime minister for eight years, and named tax chief Mikhail Mishustin to succeed him.

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