Russians Protest Retirement Age Rise, In Challenge For Putin

People applaud to an orator during a protest against raising the retirement age and reforming the pension system at Sokolniki Park in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, July 18, 2018. Russian lawmakers are debating a bill this week to sharply raise the retirement age and reform the pension system, a potentially sensitive issue in a country with a shrinking population and where pensioners are an important part of President Vladimir Putin’s support base. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

MOSCOW (AP) — Russians are protesting government plans to hike the retirement age, in a rare challenge to President Vladimir Putin’s leadership.

The State Duma on Thursday approved a bill that would raise the age at which retirees can receive state pensions from 60 to 65 for men, and from 55 to 63 for women. The rise would occur in stages over the next 15 years.

Activists from both Communist and pro-free market parties held demonstrations ahead of the vote, reflecting the unusually broad resistance to the pension reform. Several arrests were reported at an unauthorized rally in St. Petersburg on Wednesday.

The government argues that Russia needs pension reform to boost economic growth, but Putin’s approval rating slipped after the announcement. And the government was criticized for announcing the move on the day of the grandiose opening of the Russia-hosted World Cup.

However, the bill faced little resistance in the lower house of parliament, where pro-Kremlin parties dominate. It passed in the first reading 327-102 with one abstention, and will now go into two months of further discussion before a second reading, according to Russian news agencies.

The bill also includes marginal increases to the pension payments. The average current pension is 14,000 rubles ($230) a month.


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