Russians hold protests against government move to raise pension age

MOSCOW (AP) – Opponents of a Russian government move to increase the age for collecting state retirement pensions held protests throughout the country yesterday and scores of arrests were reported.

The protests were called by Alexei Navalny, the anti-corruption activist who is President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent foe. Navalny is serving a 30-day jail sentence connected with an unsanctioned protest in January unrelated to the pension proposal, which was introduced in June.

Opposition to the proposal spans the political spectrum. Protests organised by the Communist Party were held across Russia earlier this month.

The plan calls for the pension age to be raised five years – to 65 for men and 60 for women.

Olga Sokolova, a 52-year-old factory worker, said she was “dumbfounded” when the proposal came, because she had hoped to retire from her physically taxing job at 55, the current pension age for women.

“I can’t keep being afraid anymore,” she said of her decision to risk detention by showing up at a protest in Moscow’s Pushkin Square that attracted several hundred people. Protesters in Moscow chanted ‘Russia without Putin’ and held signs including “Putin, when will you go on pension?”

Demonstrations also were held in cities in Siberia and the Far East as well as St Petersburg.

Photos on social media indicated most of them were attended by 100 or more protesters, but the crowd in St Petersburg appeared to exceed 1,000. An Associated Press journalist counted at least 30 people detained at the St Petersburg protest, which was adjacent to the Finlad Station rail terminal.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party leader (L) speaks with protesters during a rally in Moscow, Russia yesterday. – AP