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More than 500 people gathered in Nalchik, the capital of Kabardino-Balkaria, on Saturday to protest Russia’s pension reforms raising the retirement age by 5 years for men and 8 years for women. Similar protests took place simultaneously in Kabardino-Balkaria’s second city, Prokhladny, as well as dozens of cities throughout Russia.
The nationwide protest rally against raising the retirement age was organised in most cities by the Russian Communist Party. The rally in Nalchik was organised by the party’s Kabardino-Balkarian branch. The Communist Party is one of three parties in Kabardino-Balkaria’s Parliament, along with United Russia, the party of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and A Just Russia. The party’s local branch has more than 3,000 members.
The retirement reform bill was introduced to the Russia’s lower house, the Duma, on 16 June, and on 26 July, MPs voted 328 to 104 for its adoption in the first reading. If the bill is adopted, women in Russia will retire at the age of 63, up from 55, and men at the age of 65, from 60. The average life expectancy for men in Russia is 66, and 77 for women. Kabardino-Balkaria ranks 8th place out of 91 regions, with the average life expectancy of 70 for men and 78 for women, according to 2018 estimates from Opensii.Info.
Not only the supporters of the Communist party, but also representatives of NGOs, as well as the residents of the republic who are not affiliated with political parties, participated in the event.
The rally lasted more than 3 hours, with participants holding posters demanding the resignation of the government and containing slogans such as ‘No to pension reform!’, ‘We demand a referendum!’, ‘We will see this pension in the coffin!’.
At the end of the rally, participants adopted a resolution demanding that the central authorities conduct a national referendum on the adoption of the new bill.
‘Period of a person’s last years’
Boris Pashtov, a member of Kabardino-Balkaria’s Parliament from the Communist Party, told OC Media that according to their party, both pension reform and other reforms in Russia were conducted without taking into account the opinion of citizens. He added that the reforms were being justified with ‘demography’, but ‘until now we have not heard any scientific study that would justify the adoption of the law on raising the retirement age’.
According to Pashtov, ‘life expectancy and birth rates can only be increased by raising the level of social protection of the population, i.e. health and education’.
Pashtov said that the rhetoric of the initiators of the bill ‘speaks for itself’, as the phrase ‘deserved rest’ will now be replaced by the phrase ‘period of a person’s last years’.
He also added that ‘the positive dynamics in life expectancy and social well-being of our citizens was determined only after the state statistics was transferred to the Ministry of Social and Economic Development’.
‘Lack of conscience’
The leader of the local branch of the Association of Victims of Political Repressions, Marks Shakhmurzov, said that the pension reform was caused by the need to replenish the treasury devastated by the state.
‘The heads of Russian ministries and departments receive up to ₽2 million ($32,000) a month as salaries, and, of course, they will have pensions respectively, not to mention other benefits’, Shakhmurzov said. He added that he considers it ‘unfair’ that there is no differentiated approach to compulsory contributions to the pension fund in Russia, and 13% of wages are deducted by all, regardless of the size of their salary.
Shakhmurzov also said there was a ‘complete lack of conscience of the so-called “servants of the people”— deputies of the State Duma and regional parliaments’ as they frequently vote to increase their salaries ‘as if they do not know that this increase is at the cost of the well-being of millions of ordinary Russians, who are on the verge of poverty’.
According to Shakhmurzov, this behaviour is explained by the fact that ‘thanks to the electoral law passed a couple of years ago, in order to become a deputy, one does not need to fight for the votes of voters — it’s enough to get into party lists’.