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Navalny Plans July 1 Protests Against 'Crime' Of Retirement-Age Increase

Russian opposition activist Aleksei Navalny leaves a detention center in Moscow on June 14.
Russian opposition activist Aleksei Navalny leaves a detention center in Moscow on June 14.

Opposition politician Aleksei Navalny is urging Russians to protest on July 1 against the government's plan to raise the retirement age, calling it "robbery" and a crime against the citizenry.

"The pension age increase organized by [President Vladimir] Putin and [Prime Minister Dmitry] Medvedev is a real crime," Navalny said in an Instagram post on June 19.

"It is the simple robbery of tens of millions people disguised as a 'necessary reform," he wrote. "We will protest against this with all our might and call on you to do the same."

Navalny said supporters have filed requests for permission for public gatherings with the authorities in 20 cities.

He called it a nationwide protest but said that, at least for now, applications have not been filed in any of the 11 cities that are hosting matches in the June 14-July 15 soccer World Cup.

Most demonstrations are prohibited during the tournament in those cities, which include Moscow and St. Petersburg, and Navalny did not say whether protests were planned in any of them.

After years of talk about raising the retirement age, Putin's government set the politically risky process in motion shortly after he started a new six-year term that could be his last on May 7.

On June 16, the government submitted legislation that would raise the pension age from 60 to 65 by 2028 for men and from 55 to 63 for women by 2034. The 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 has angered many Russians who would see their retirement recede into the future under the pension reform.

More than 1.5 million people had signed a petition against the reform on the website by June 19.

The Kremlin has sought to distance Putin from the plan, saying that he has not been involved in recent discussions on the matter. But he will have final say on the pension reform plan, which would go to the president for signature or veto after its adoption by parliament.

Navalny, an anticorruption crusader and vocal Kremlin foe, was barred from running in the March 18 election in which Putin secured his fourth presidential term. Navalny's call for the July 1 protests came five days after he was released from jail following a 30-day sentence for organizing protests against Putin.

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