The amendments were backed 144-1 with 126 votes needed for approval.
President Dmitry Medvedev's proposal, which he made during his first state of the nation address on November 5, triggered speculation that the extension of the current four-year parliamentary and presidential terms, which would apply to the next head of state and legislature, was a pretext for the return to office of his predecessor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov earlier dismissed speculation that the amendments were paving the way for early presidential and parliamentary elections. "Everyone must work to the end of his term," he said.
The constitutional amendments should be approved by at least two-thirds of regional legislatures. After that, the Federation Council will hold another session to endorse their decision. The amendments will come into force once they have been signed by the president and published in a government newspaper.
The upper house also approved on Wednesday constitutional amendments introducing annual reports to parliament by the government.
The State Duma will be authorized to consider governmental reports on its activity and demand answers to lawmakers' questions.
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Some people are trying to make the reality in Russia at least a bit more humane. The amnesty should apply not only to persons involved in high-profile cases, but also to individuals who are not as well-known. It is better to set free at least some of the individuals who deserve to be released than no one at all.