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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gryzlov's Deputies Say He Will Stay

State Duma Speaker and United Russia party leader Boris Gryzlov on Monday reiterated that there were no plans to amend the Constitution, while his deputies dismissed speculation about him stepping down as speaker.

"On behalf of our faction, I want to state with all responsibility that the Constitution will not be changed," Gryzlov told United Russia deputies on Monday at a meeting dedicated to the 12th anniversary of the Constitution. Until last year, Dec. 12 -- the day the Constitution was approved in a 1993 referendum -- was celebrated as a national holiday.

"As long as United Russia has a majority in the State Duma, the Constitution will remain intact," Gryzlov said.

Since President Vladimir Putin's re-election in March 2004, debate has raged around proposals to amend the Constitution to allow him to remain in power when his second and constitutionally last presidential term expires in early 2008.

United Russia, through its two-thirds Duma majority, can initiate proposed changes to the Constitution, which limit the president to two consecutive terms in office.

Gryzlov said Monday that about 30 bills calling for changes to the Constitution had been sent to the Duma only to be rejected or withdrawn by sponsoring deputies. Gryzlov did not specify over what time span the amendments had been sumbitted, or how many of them had proposed ways for Putin to remain in power beyond 2008.

Meanwhile, Oleg Morozov, one of the Duma's two first deputy speakers and Gryzlov's deputy in the United Russia faction, dismissed the media speculation about Gryzlov stepping down as Duma speaker as "nonsense."

Citing unnamed sources in the State Duma, newspaper Noviye Izvestia said Monday that Gryzlov would soon resign in an effort to ease his workload, and that Morozov would likely replace him. The move would happen this week, the sources said.

"What kind of nonsense is this?" Morozov said, when asked to comment on Gryzlov's possible resignation, Interfax reported.

The other first deputy Duma speaker, Lyubov Sliska, said that the speculation appeared to be aimed at annoying Gryzlov on the eve of his 55th birthday on Thursday.

Also on Monday, Gryzlov congratulated United Russia regional branches in Khabarovsk and Novosibirsk, which won majorities in their respective regional legislatures on Sunday. United Russia received 41 percent of the vote in Khabarovsk and 33 percent in Novosibirsk.