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Upper House Approves Russian Benefits Bill

9 August 2004 -- Russian lawmakers have sent President Vladimir Putin a controversial bill that will replace benefits for the elderly, invalids, and others with cash payments.

Putin is expected to sign the measure into law in the coming weeks.

The bill was approved on 8 August by the Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian parliament, by a vote of 156 to five, with one abstention, after being approved by the State Duma last week.

Some pensioners and invalids have expressed doubts about the measure, which will end most of their Soviet-era privileges in using public transportation, health care benefits, and other advantages.

They argue that inflation could quickly nullify the cash compensations and leave them in a weakened position.

The government says the legislation will more accurately target aid for needy segments of the population.