Thousands of people took to the streets of Moscow on Sunday to protest Russian President Vladimir Putin over a proposed increase to the country’s retirement age.
According to Reuters, protesters organized by the opposition Libertarian Party chanted slogans such as “Putin is a thief” and “away with the tsar” after the Kremlin proposed raising the retirement age from 60 to 65 for men and from 55 to 63 for women, meaning many will not live to enjoy their pension in a country where life expectancy is just 71.
The proposal is designed to shore up government finances amid the country’s increasingly negative economic outlook. A recent poll has found that around 90 percent of people oppose the idea, while an online petition to block it has also garnered 3 million signatures.
An estimated 6,000 people turned up at Sunday’s rally, according to the NGO White Counter, although authorities estimated the figure at around 2,500. Police detained two protest organizers.
“If the retirement age is increased, every citizen of Russia will be robbed for more than a million rubles ($16,000) and it is unacceptable,” activist Sergei Udaltsov told the Associated Press.
Putin, who has previously pledged not to raise the retirement age, has attempted to distance himself from the plan but indicated that such measures will eventually be necessary.
“We have to proceed not from emotions, but from the real assessment of economic conditions and prospects of its development and (the development of) the social sphere,” Putin said.
On presenting the plan, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev argued the changes would be implemented gradually from 2019 and would help raise the country’s average pension that is still equivalent to a meager $229.52.
Medvedev unveiled the proposal on the eve of the World Cup, leading many to accuse the government of trying to distract citizens from government policy. That same day, the government also announced that they would raise the income tax from 18 percent to 20 percent, a policy that has since passed through the upper house of parliament before being signed into law.
The move has negatively affected Putin’s poll ratings, four months after he won an additional term as president that will run till 2024.
The election was widely condemned by independent observers who noted the imprisonment of the most prominent opposition candidate Alexei Navalny and a number of electoral irregularities that included the stuffing of ballot boxes and pro-Putin propaganda at polling stations.