Officially, the new law limits Russian citizens to two presidential terms in their lifetime, outlawing the kind of shuffling between the presidency and the role of prime minister that Putin employed earlier in his career.

 Vladmir Putin 4

But the law specifically does not count terms served up until it entered into force, meaning that Putin’s past four terms (including the current term) do not count and he can still serve two more. Russians say that he has “zeroed out” his terms.

Analysts have said the law may not indicate that Putin wants to remain president, but simply wants to avoid being a lame duck and provoking a power struggle during his last term in office.

However, Putin has made a habit of remaining in power at every moment he could have bowed out and anointed a successor. Some believe he has not found a way to transfer power and ensure that he and his family would remain safe in his retirement. The new law also gives him and former president Dmitry Medvedev lifetime immunity from prosecution.

After serving his first two terms in office, Putin assumed the post of prime minister in 2008 due to term limits but nonetheless remained the country’s de facto leader. He returned to the presidency in 2012, provoking protests among his critics on the left and right that were put down harshly.

Presidential terms have also been lengthened to six years. Putin’s current term will expire in 2024.