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Protesters Challenge Pension Reform As Russian Lawmakers Approve Bill In First Reading


"Waited for pension": A model skeleton lies on the ground during a protest against the government's plan to raise the pension age in St. Petersburg on July 19.

MOSCOW -- Russia's lower chamber of parliament, the State Duma, has approved in its first reading a controversial bill on raising the retirement age amid ongoing protests.

Lawmakers approved the bill 327-102 with one abstention on July 19 as some 200 people outside the Duma protested against it.

The protesters were holding posters saying "Pension reform Is genocide," "Putin, how can we reach pension age?" and other slogans.

Under the proposal submitted by the Russian government on June 16, the retirement-age increases will be gradual and begin in 2019.

The bill provides for the retirement age to rise to 65 for men by 2028 and 63 for women by 2034. Currently, the retirement age for men and women is 60 and 55 years, respectively.

Maksim Suraikin, the leader of the Communists of Russia party, which is different from the much larger Communist Party led by Gennady Zyuganov; Sergei Mitrokhin, a leading figure of the opposition Yabloko party; and Sergei Udaltsov, the head of the Left Front movement, were among the protesters.

If the Duma approves the bill in two more readings and the upper chamber, the Federation Council, also votes for it, President Vladimir Putin will then sign it into law.

Protesters rally outside the Duma in Moscow on July 19.
Protesters rally outside the Duma in Moscow on July 19.

The government's plan to raise the retirement age has prompted protests across Russia in recent weeks.

The increases -- the first since the Soviet era -- would come in a country where life expectancy is relatively low and the pension age is lower than in any developed country.

The plan has angered many Russians, with nearly 2.8 million people signing a petition against the reform on by July 1.