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Protesters Accuse Russian Officials Of 'Stealing' Pensions As They Rally Against Retirement-Age Hike


A protest rally against pension reform in St. Petersburg on September 16

Russians have staged small rallies in several cities to protest against an unpopular plan to raise the eligibility age for retirement pensions by five years.

Reports said up to 300 people attended a sanctioned demonstration in the Urals city of Orenburg on September 30, days after the lower chamber of Russia's parliament approved a bill to lift the retirement age to 65 for men and 60 for women.

Smaller protests were also reported in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, Omsk in Siberia, and Votkinsk in the Urals.

The pension reform has sparked controversy, and opinion polls have shown President Vladimir Putin's popularity dip since the plan was unveiled earlier this year.

Older Russians worry they won't live long enough to collect benefits. Younger Russians fear keeping people in work for longer could diminish their chances of finding a job.

In Orenburg, the protesters voiced opposition to the pension reform but also called for a referendum on whether to reinstate direct elections for the heads of the Orenburg region’s cities and districts, according to local newspaper Ural56.

The demand comes after Orenburg Mayor Yevgeny Arapov and his deputy were detained in August on suspicion of receiving a bribe.

About 100 people attended a protest in Rostov-on-Don during which Russian leaders were accused of “stealing pensions” but also “freedom, peace, truth, dignity, and honor.”

Putin was blamed for raising the retirement age, as well as taxes, and the prices of food, gasoline, housing, and communal services.

In the outskirts of Omsk, a small rally organized by the Communist Party and Yabloko called on the authorities to abandon the pension reform.

The participants also criticized the regional electoral commission for failing to register an application calling for a referendum on the matter.

And in Votkinsk in the Udmurtia region, the organizers of a rally accused Russian officials of "lying” about the pension reform, Ekho Moskvy radio reported.

On September 27, the State Duma approved in its third and final reading the bill to raise the retirement age.

The proposed legislation now needs to be passed in the parliament's upper chamber, the Federation Council, and then signed by Putin to become law.

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