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Putin Awards Medals In First Public Event Since Lockdown Began

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) speaks during a the medal ceremony in Moscow on June 12.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has presented Gold Star of Labor Hero medals to several individuals as part of activities marking Russia Day, his first appearance at a crowded public event since coronavirus restrictions were introduced in late-March.

After raising the Russian flag on Poklonnaya Hill in Moscow on the national holiday celebrating the then-Soviet republic's declaration of state sovereignty in 1990, Putin congratulated the country on its "great glory and pride" and called on citizens to support amendments to the constitution at a national vote scheduled for July 1.

"The proposals to add these fundamental, key principles to the Russian Constitution have been frequently suggested. I am sure that such a position is shared and supported by the absolute majority of our citizens," said Putin, who appeared without a mask or other personal protective equipment.

Among other changes, the amendments would allow the 67-year-old, who has run Russia for 20 years as either president or prime minister, to stay in power until 2036.

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The Gold Star of Labor Hero was established in Russia in 2013 and is usually awarded to people in April or May at the Kremlin.

This year, the ceremony was moved to Russia Day due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Putin has held many video calls with top officials as the Kremlin attempted to keep him from catching the virus that infected his spokesman and the prime minister. Even during Victory Day celebrations on May 9, one of the country's most revered holidays, Putin stood alone to observe a parade of the Kremlin guard regiment.

Russia Day has been celebrated each year on June 12 since 1992.

Based on reporting by TASS, Interfax, and RIA Novosti