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Protesters chant anti-Putin slogans at Moscow rally against retirement age plan

Several thousand people gathered in central Moscow on July 29 on a second consecutive day of protest against the Russian government's plan to raise the retirement age. (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty/Released)
July 31, 2018

On Sunday, thousands of protesters gathered in Moscow in opposition to a recent proposal to increase Russia’s retirement age.

Protesters chanted criticisms against Russian President Vladimir Putin, such as “Putin is a thief,” and “away with the tsar,” Reuters reported. The protests were organized by opponents in the Libertarian Party.

Since the proposal for the increased retirement age was announced in mid-June, protests have sparked across Russia. Approximately 90 percent of the Russian population opposes the bill, and an online petition has amassed 3 million signatures.

The bill proposes increasing the retirement age to 65 for men, and 63 for women. The current retirement ages are 60 for men, and 55 for women.

The proposal, which would increase the ages gradually between 2019 and 2034, is included in a budget bill that seeks to lower government commitments. Russian officials claim the bill would increase the average retirement pension.

Sunday’s protest included approximately 6,000 people, who gathered less than two miles from the Kremlin. They held signs expressing their opposition to the bill, with slogans such as “stop stealing our future.” Saturday’s protest included an estimated 12,000 participants.

Protesters also chanted, “Hands off pensions, Putin!” and additional signs included slogans such as, “We want to live on our pensions and not die at work.”

The retirement age issue is particularly sensitive for Putin, who once vowed not to raise the retirement age before he was reelected in March. Earlier in July, he said publicly that he opposed several proposals to raise the retirement age, adding that Russia could avoid doing so for several years.

“We have to proceed not from emotions, but from the real assessment of economic conditions and prospects of its development and (the development of) the social sphere,” Putin said.

Putin’s approval ratings have taken a noticeable decline since the proposal was announced. He tried to counter the criticisms, promising to listen to “all opinions” on the issue.

The recent protests were authorized by authorities in Moscow.

Several arrests have been made as a result of the protests, according to RadioFreeEurope. Chair of the Russian Libertarian Party, Sergei Boiko was arrested along with rally leader Mikhail Chichkov, and an opposition politician’s aide, Oleg Stepanov.

Russian officials have warned that retirement ages would need to be increased due to the country’s changing demographics, budget, and labor force.

However, opponents say that most retirees won’t live to see their pensions.

As of 2016, only 57 percent of Russian men were expected to live beyond age 65, according to the World Bank.