Muscovites protest pension reform ahead of parliament vote

Moscow (AFP) –


Around 1,000 people gathered in Moscow on Wednesday to protest a planned hike in the pension age, a day before the lower house of the Russian parliament is set to vote on the measure.

Rallies were held across the country at the start of the month over raising the pension age to 65 for men and 63 for women, which would be the first such increase in nearly 90 years.

"People don't want a revolution or any sudden changes. People want to be listened to, that's all," Marina, a 45-year-old accountant, told AFP.

One placard at the authorised protest read: "Be a patriot -- kick the bucket before you get the pension".

Meanwhile the crowd shouted slogans such as "Putin, step down!" and "The people are opposed".

Analysts have said that growing popular discontent over the reform as living standards plunge may pose the most serious challenge to President Vladimir Putin during his nearly 20 years in power.

The protest brought together Muscovites ranging in age from young adults to those already retired, as well as flag-waving members of moderate and hard-left opposition groups.

The government says the pension age increase is unavoidable as the current system represents a growing weight for the cash-strapped federal budget.

More than 2.5 million people have signed a petition against the proposal.

Russian life expectancy is low for a developed country, at about 65 years for men and 76 years for women.