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Duma unanimously passes Putin’s amendments to pension reform bill

Duma unanimously passes Putin’s amendments to pension reform bill
The Russian parliament has approved amendments by Vladimir Putin to the bill providing for a gradual rise in the age of retirement. The changes are expected to soften the impact of the unpopular measure for ordinary citizens.

The nine amendments drafted by President Putin reduce the proposed increase in the retirement age for women, guarantee that pensioners keep all current tax benefits until the reform is fully completed, and offer additional payments to several categories of citizens, such as pensioners living in remote rural areas and representatives of indigenous peoples in northern Russia.

The amended bill will see the retirement age for men raised from 60 to 65 years by 2028. The increase for women will be from 55 to 60 years by 2034.

Putin’s initiative also includes the introduction of a pre-retirement age, which will be five years before retirement age. Citizens who reach this age would get higher unemployment benefits and enjoy additional guarantees of employment, as companies will be punished for sacking or not hiring them without valid reasons. On Tuesday, the State Duma approved changes to the Criminal Code providing for these penalties.

Along with the presidential amendments, the lower house also passed several alterations to the pension reform bill drafted by the parliamentary majority party United Russia. These were mostly technical and concerned such issues as indexing of pensions for inflation, and interaction between the state and private pension funds.

The State Duma approved the bill ordering an increase in the age of retirement in mid-June this year. The bill has been greeted with public discontent, as expected, and opposition politicians have been fast to capitalize on these sentiments. The motion was criticized in the media and on the internet, while large Russian cities saw several protest rallies, some attended by thousands of participants, mostly organized by Russia’s largest opposition party – the Communists.

Vladimir Putin personally addressed the situation in a special televised address to the nation on August 29. He asked ordinary people to understand the necessity of the reform and also promised to make some changes to the proposals that would soften the impact on the most vulnerable groups of citizens.

As State Duma MPs were discussing the presidential amendments on Wednesday, another protest rally took place near the parliament’s headquarters in Moscow. The event, organized by leftist opposition parties, started as a series of single-person pickets (the only protest format that does not require a license from municipal authorities), but quickly developed in an impromptu demonstration with the estimated number of participants ranging from 30 to 500.

Two Communist Party MPs have also expressed their opposition to the measures by wearing t-shirts depicting the numbers 63 and 65 crossed out. However, State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin mocked them, saying that a lawmaker’s salary was much higher than those of ordinary voters and, in his opinion, his colleagues could afford a jacket and a tie.

Also on Wednesday the State Duma passed the bill providing for an increase in the retirement age in the second reading. The third and final reading of the motion is scheduled for Thursday.

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