Thousands rally across Russia in rare protest over pension age increase
‘They keep reaching into your pockets,’ says Communist Party leader
Thousands of Russians held authorised protest rallies across the country on Saturday as anger continues over the government’s pension plan.
Several thousand people attended a Moscow rally against the plan organised by the Communist Party and other groups, sanctioned by city officials.
Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov called for the proposed changes to be stopped. “They keep reaching into your pockets,” he told the crowd.
Dmitry Orlov, who travelled to Moscow for the rally from Kostroma, said: “It can’t be that our country doesn't have money for its people, the people who spend their whole lives working and paying deductions for their pensions.”
Similar protests were held in cities across Russia on Saturday. The demonstrations have reportedly been peaceful, unlike the unauthorised rallies organised earlier this month by opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
More than 800 people were detained by police on 9 September, according to Reuters. Some of the protesters who gathered in Moscow’s Pushkin Square that day were heard chanting “Putin is a thief”.
Mr Navalny had called for protests against the pension age rise before he was sentenced to 30 days in jail for organising a January protest over a separate issue. He is set to be released from custody on Monday.
The government’s plan to lift the retirement age, currently making its way through parliament, has angered a wide cross-section of Russian society. It has led to a 15 per cent points decline in Mr Putin’s popularity rating.
Older Russians fear they will not live long enough to collect the benefits of a pension, while younger citizens are concerned that older people staying in work longer will reduce their own opportunities.
Mr Putin has said the changes are necessary because rising life expectancy could exhaust the nation’s pension resources.
The Communist Party is also angry about a gubernatorial election defeat in Russia’s Far East Primorsky Krai earlier this week. The party’s candidate Andrei Ishchenko was five points ahead of the Kremlin’s candidate, with 95 per cent of the votes counted.
After losing the election, Mr Ishchenko said on Facebook: “Friends, they are stealing votes from us… Let’s defend our victory right now!”
Additional reporting by Associated Press