In Moscow, the lower house of Parliament has approved President Vladimir Putin's controversial plan to end popular elections for Russia's regional governors, and allow the Kremlin to appoint them instead.

Mr. Putin says such changes are necessary to block terrorists from trying to influence Russia's local elections, but critics across the political spectrum say his plan is undemocratic.

The bill won final approval in the State Duma by a wide margin Friday. It is expected to pass easily in the upper house.

The central government proposes that the Kremlin should select gubernatorial candidates, whose appointment would have to be confirmed by regional lawmakers. If a provincial parliament rejects a governor chosen by Moscow, Mr. Putin could either dissolve the local body or over-rule its veto by appointing an acting governor.

Some information for this report provided by AFP and AP.