Russians Rally Against ‘Cannibalistic’ Pension Reform

Cash, Calculator, Pen

(Article ©2018 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – July 1, 2018 – also appeared at rferl.org/a/russians-rally-against-retirement-age-increase/29330242.html)

Thousands of people have taken to the streets across Russia to protest against the government’s plan to raise the retirement age.

Labor unions, political parties, and opposition politician Aleksei Navalny had called on Russians to demonstrate on July 1 against a bill to raise the pension age from 60 to 65 by 2028 for men and from 55 to 63 for women by 2034.

Protest rallies were reported in the Far Eastern cities of Vladivostok, Khabarovsk, Komsomolsk-on-Amur, and Birobidzhan, as well as the Siberian city of Omsk and Orenburg in the Urals.

More protests were expected in western Russia later in the day.

More than 500 people gathered on July 1 in Birobidzhan, the capital of Russia’s Jewish Autonomous Region, carrying posters with slogans such as “The hungry pensioner is the shame of the state,” “Die before retirement,” and “No to [Prime Minister Dmitry] Medvedev’s cannibalistic pension reform!”

In Omsk, 4,500 people took part in a rally at the Blinov sports and concert complex, with some speakers calling for the resignation of Medvedev’s government.

During the rally on Birobidzhan’s Lenin Square, the participants urged the authorities to scrap the bill on the pension reform, to stop the rise in gasoline prices, and not to increase the value-added tax.

Under legislation submitted by the Russian government on June 16, the retirement-age increases would be gradual and begin in 2019.

The first increases since the Soviet era would shorten the retirement period for many people in Russia, where life expectancy is relatively low and the pension age is lower than in any other developed country.

The proposal to raise the retirement age has angered many Russians who would see their retirement recede into the future under the reform.

Nearly 2.6 million people had signed a petition against the reform on Change.org by July 1.

Navalny on June 19 urged Russians to protest on July 1 against the plan, calling it “robbery” and a crime against the citizenry.

The anticorruption crusader and vocal Kremlin foe said supporters had filed requests for permission for public gatherings with the authorities in 20 cities.

But applications have not been filed in any of the 11 cities that are hosting matches in the June 14-July 15 soccer World Cup, he said.

Most demonstrations are prohibited during the tournament in those cities, which include Moscow and St. Petersburg.

With reporting by AP and AFP