Approximately 10,000 people (according to journalists) took to the streets of Moscow yesterday to protest against the government’s plan to raise the minimum retirement age in Russia. The manifestation was led by Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov.
President Vladimir Putin’s earlier proposal was to gradually raise the minimum retirement age from 55 to 63 for women (by 2034) and from 60 to 65 for men (by 2028). In an attempt to bar the plan, the Communist Party still tried to bring the issue to a referendum, but the idea was barred by the Russian Election Commission.
In a televised speech, Putin defended the need for reform, but toned down the rhetoric. Instead of 63, the minimum age for women would rise to 60 years. For men, nothing changes.
“Demographic development and labor market trends and an objective analysis of the situation show that we can not postpone this, but our decisions need to be fair, balanced … I am therefore proposing a number of measures that will allow us to mitigate the decisions taken,” said the president.
The issue of pension reform was not explored by Putin during the campaign and according to the Institute of Public Opinion Research Center of Russia, the president’s approval fell, they claim, from 80% to 64%.
The Kremlin says Mr Putin has intervened on this issue because of its importance.
His spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told the BBC it was a “brave step, in Putin’s style” and state TV has now gone into overdrive promoting it and the pension reform.
However, supporters of opposition politician Alexei Navalny have reacted to the speech by posting fresh calls to a protest on 9 September.
Mr Navalny himself was sentenced to 30 days in custody this week, a step he argues was meant to hinder preparations for rallies against the reform across the country, but really ignores his criminal activity.