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Thousands Rally Across Russia          09/22 07:53

   MOSCOW (AP) -- Thousands rallied across Russia on Saturday to protest the 
government's plan to raise the eligibility age for retirement pensions by five 
years.

   Several thousand people attended a Moscow rally organized by the Communist 
Party and other leftist groups, which was authorized by city officials. 
Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov called for rolling back the proposed 
changes, arguing that the government should redistribute resources to avoid 
raising the pension age.

   "They keep reaching into your pockets," he told the crowd, which had many 
waving red flags.

   Similar protests were also held in many cities across Russia's 11 time zones 
and most of them were also sanctioned by authorities.

   The demonstrations went on peacefully, unlike a wave of unauthorized pension 
protests earlier this month organized by opposition leader Alexei Navalny that 
led to the detention of over 1,000 people across Russia.

   Navalny, the anti-corruption activist who is Putin's most visible foe, had 
called for protests against the pension age hike before he was sentenced to 30 
days in jail for organizing a January protest over a different issue. He is set 
to be released from custody Monday.

   The government's plan to lift the retirement age to 65 for men and 60 for 
women has irked a wide range of Russians from all political factions. Older 
Russians fear they won't live long enough to collect significant benefits while 
younger generations are worried that keeping people in the workforce longer 
will limit their own employment opportunities.

   The proposal has dented President Vladimir Putin's popularity. He responded 
by offering some concessions, but argued that the age hike is necessary because 
rising life expectancies in Russia could exhaust the nation's pension resources 
if the eligibility age remains the same. 


(KA)

 
 
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