OREANDA-NEWSRussians overwhelmingly approved a package of constitutional changes in a nationwide vote, partial results showed Wednesday, allowing President Vladimir Putin to potentially extend his two-decade rule until 2036.

According to the latest data from the Central Election Commission (CEC), the turnout across the country is about 65%. As a result of processing 100% of protocols (by 9:55, Moscow time), 77.92% of voters voted for the amendments, while 21.27% voted against.

There had been little doubt that voters would back the changes, which Putin announced earlier this year and critics denounced as a manoeuvre to allow him to stay in the Kremlin for life.

The amendments had been passed weeks ago by Russia's parliament and copies of the new constitution were already on sale in bookshops, but Putin had said voter approval was essential to give them legitimacy.

The reforms include conservative and populist measures — like guaranteed minimum pensions and an effective ban on gay marriage — but crucially for Putin also reset presidential limits allowing him to run twice again after his current six-year term expires in 2024.

In a final appeal to voters on Tuesday, Putin said the changes were needed to ensure Russia's future "stability, security, prosperity."