National protests expected in Russia over controversial pension reform legislation

National protests expected in Russia over controversial pension reform legislation

Despite a ban on all protests against pending pension reform, countrywide demonstrations are expected today for the second time in

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Photo: Getty Images

Despite a ban on all protests against pending pension reform, countrywide demonstrations are expected today for the second time in less than a week.

Last Sunday, thousands of Russians protested in dozens of cities over legislation that would increase the retirement age. Protests were limited to non-World Cup hosting cities due to a regulation banning demonstrations for the duration of the tournament.

Polls suggest about four out every five Russians oppose the reform, which will raise the age from 60 to 65 for men and from 55 to 63 for women, over a 15-year period. Protesters, including anti-Kremlin activist Alexei Navalny, have called the reform reminiscent of “communist times”.

Expect protesters to attempt to defy today’s ban and take to the streets in non-World Cup cities, using the impetus of dissatisfaction over pension reform to also protest the Kremlin’s greater repression of civil liberties.

However, the Kremlin is likely to be much less “patient” in dealing with demonstrators. Fully implementing President Vladimir Putin’s executive order giving additional power to local authorities to ban demonstrations, expect a stream of arrests and potential clashes as police crack down on those defying the government.

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