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People across Russia rally against raising pension age

September 9, 2018
Associated Press

MOSCOW (AP) — Opponents of a Russian government move to increase the age for collecting state retirement pensions held protests throughout the country on Sunday and more than 150 people were reported arrested.

The protests were called by Alexei Navalny, the anti-corruption activist who is President Vladimir Putin's most prominent foe. Navalny is serving a 30-day jail sentence connected with an unsanctioned protest in January unrelated to the pension proposal, which was introduced in June.

Opposition to the proposal spans the political spectrum. Protests organized by the Communist Party were held across Russia earlier this month.

The plan calls for the pension age to be raised five years, to 65 for men and 60 for women.

Olga Sokolova, a 52-year-old factory worker, said she was "dumbfounded" when the proposal came because she had hoped to retire from her physically taxing job at 55.

"I can't keep being afraid anymore," she said of her decision to risk detention by showing up at a protest in Moscow's Pushkin Square that police said attracted about 2,000 people. They chanted "Russia without Putin" and held signs including "Putin, when will you go on pension?"

The demonstrators later began marching in the direction of the Kremlin, about 1.2 kilometers (0.75 miles) away, chanting "Down with the czar!" as they passed the building of the Federation Council, the upper house of parliament.

Demonstrations also took place in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk on a Pacific island and in Kaliningrad, the Russian exclave between Poland and Lithuania.

Photos on social media indicated most of the protests were attended by 100 or more people, with some apparently drawing several hundred. In St. Petersburg, the crowd appeared to exceed 1,000. An Associated Press journalist counted at least 30 people detained at that protest.

The OVD-Info organization that monitors political repression reported 153 people had been detained in connection with protests around the country. A lawyer for Navalny's Anti-Corruption Fund was arrested in Moscow before the rally there.

Raising the pension is opposed both by older Russians, who fear they won't live long enough to collect significant benefits, and by younger ones worried that keeping people in the workforce longer will limit their own employment opportunities.

"The reform is a robbery of my parents and grandparents. We're stealing our future, too. Right now the only thing we can do is protest," 24-year-old Igor Panov said at the Moscow demonstration.

Putin's trust rating in public opinion polls dropped after the proposal was put forward. Last month he offered some concessions, but he and government officials say the age hike is necessary because rising life expectancy in Russia could exhaust pension resources if the eligibility age remains the same.

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Irina Titova in St. Petersburg contributed to this report.

 
 

 

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