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Kremlin Distances Putin From Plan To Raise Retirement Age

Elderly women watch a live broadcast of Russian President Vladimir Putin's annual question-and-answer session in the village of Yelna, Ivanovo region, on June 7.

The Kremlin has sought to distance President Vladimir Putin from plans to raise the retirement age, saying that Putin has not been involved in recent discussions on the matter -- a sensitive issue in Russia for decades.

Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters on June 15 that Putin's 2005 promise not to increase the pension age as president was made long ago and "the situation has changed since then."

"The matter is being worked out by the government. The president is not taking part in that process," Peskov added.

He spoke a day after Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev outlined a proposal to raise the retirement age from 60 to 65 by 2028 for men and from 55 to 63 for women by 2034.

Medvedev said that under the plan, which has faced criticism, the pension age would begin rising in 2019.

The changes would shorten the retirement period for many people in Russia, where the current life expectancy for men is 68.

Russian government forecasts put life expectancy at 70 for men and 80 for women by 2024.

Putin would have final say on the pension-reform plan, which must be proposed as legislation and adopted by parliament before it goes to the president for signature or veto.

Peskov said the proposal could be adjusted before that, saying it still faces review by experts.

"Let's wait for the final contours of this reform to appear as a result of this work by experts," he said.

There has been talk for years of raising Russia's low retirement age in order to bolster its pension system, which is also strained by low life expectancy and a population size that the UN has forecast to shrink by some 10 percent -- to 132.7 million -- by 2050.

Demographic forecasters say that by 2036, the number of retirees in Russia will be twice as high as the number of people in the workforce.

Observers had predicted that Putin might finally endorse an increase, which carries a potential political risk, after securing a new six-year term in in the March presidential election.

Stressing the government's role in the prosed increase could potentially enable Putin to push changes through while shielding himself from criticism.

With reporting by Interfax and Vedomosti
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