Russian lawmakers have approved the second reading of a bill extending the presidential term from four to six years, according to AP.

The bill was proposed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. It has been seen by many as a step toward Vladimir Putin`s return to power.

The Kremlin-controlled State Duma voted 351-57 to quickly approve the bill in the second of three readings Wednesday.

The widely popular Putin, now prime minister, was barred constitutionally from seeking a third straight term as president in elections this year.

Putin has said the change was not tailored for him and would boost Russia`s democracy, but many political observers say that Medvedev could step down early so that Putin can reclaim the presidential seat.