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article imageRussians protest pension reform despite Putin concessions

By AFP     Sep 2, 2018 in World

Thousands of people across Russia protested Sunday against a deeply unpopular pension reform despite President Vladimir Putin's announcement of several concessions this week.

Moscow plans to gradually raise the state pension age as the economy struggles under Western sanctions, in the first such hike in nearly 90 years.

The proposed move -- already approved by parliament's lower house in a first reading in July -- has led to a rare outburst of public anger.

Igor Sirotkin, one of several thousand protesters who joined a Moscow rally organised by the Communist Party Sunday, accused the government of seeking to rob ordinary people of their earnings.

"People work hard and do not live long," the 57-year-old unemployed opera singer told AFP.

His wife, Larisa Sirotkina, said she was "tired" of working. "I am 52, I should retire in three years and I am waiting for it," the German teacher said.

Police estimated that some 6,000 people turned up for the Communist rally while another 1,500 joined a smaller protest, also in Moscow.

There were also protests in other Russian cities, including Saint Petersburg where some 2,500 demonstrators took to the streets.

In the Volga city of Samara, some in the 1,000-strong crowd urged Putin to resign, an AFP reporter said.

In a rare televised address, the Russian president this week proposed a raft of measures to soften the reform to buttress his falling approval ratings.

He proposed rasing the pension age by five years to 60 for women, instead of eight years, as previously planned.

The state pension age for men will rise by five years to 65.

The Communist Party has said it would not back the proposals despite the changes and reiterated its call for a referendum on the subject.

Given the low life expectancy of Russian men -- 65 years -- many would not live long enough under the reform to receive a state pension.

Putin's top critic Alexei Navalny has called on Russians to turn up for a major protest against the pension reform next weekend.

A court this week jailed Navalny for 30 days before he planned to lead the rally, which is timed to coincide with mayoral elections in Moscow.


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