Pension reform fuelling new protests in Russia

The protest against the planned pension reform in Russia shows no sign of abating. Thousands of people demonstrated in several cities on the weekend despite a ban. The jailed Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny had called for marches to be held on Saturday, when regional elections were set to take place. Is a storm brewing in Russia?

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Ekho Moskvy (RU) /

Speedy, motivated, and fearless

Young people are taking control of the protests, journalist Anton Orech comments in Echo of Moscow:

“The number of protesters is declining but their activities are being crushed ever more brutally. ... That increases the risk of them ending the day in the hospital or behind bars. The protests are changing into youth actions in which you need to think fast, run fast and fear nothing. ... The youths are far more motivated than the police. The desire to take part in the protests comes from heart, but breaking them up is just part of the job for police. And the greater the motivation, the more mobile and clever the protests, whereas the police come across as harsh but dumb and inflexible. I think the protest movement will become ever more radicalised, with hundreds of young demonstrators replacing the thousands of peaceful citizens who marched with their balloons and funny slogans.”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

Highly dangerous for Putin

The protests in Russia have entered a new phase, the taz believes:

“Ever since Putin raised the retirement age his popularity has plummeted. ... The social protests against the this move pose a greater threat to the system than any criticism of the democratic deficit on the part of the still negligible opposition. Particularly as Putin's challenger, Alexei Navalny, is coordinating these rallies. The combination of revolting youths and social protest has taken on a new quality. And with roughly one thousand arrests, the state hasn't been pussyfooting around either. 'Pay pensions instead of building palaces', one banner demanded. The protesters are no longer content to demand greater participation. They want Putin to put his money where his mouth is.”

Ekho Moskvy (RU) /

Poorly executed but right in principle

Former presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak writes in a blog entry republished by Echo of Moscow why she believes the reform is correct but not well thought out:

“At present there are 35 million pensioners, and if the retirement age isn't changed that number will go up to 55 million in the 2040s. The number of workers, meanwhile, will go down slightly. So either we raise the retirement age gradually now or all in one go in five to ten years' time. There is no real alternative! ... What I have against the plan is that while it's unavoidable, it doesn't strike me as coherent. ... Why has there been no widespread discussion with experts about how to solve the problem? And if it's your dream to retire as soon as possible - at 55 that is - you should put some thought into what's wrong with your life for you to be so unhappy with your work.”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

Cynical gambit by the authorities

For the taz the anger over Russia's pension reform is justified:

“No one with a shred of common sense can understand why someone who's been working hard for decades should keep slaving away - for a pension that's often not even enough to allow them to live and grow old with dignity. But even more importantly, and further proof of the cynicism of the authorities: many men who are set to retire at 65 will only get to 'enjoy' their well-deserved retirement at the cemetery. Because their average life-expectancy, above all in the regions of the Russian Federation, is just 62.”