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Despite calls from some minority-party deputies, the State Duma voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to adopt the first reading of controversial legislation that would raise Russia’s retirement age. The final vote tally was 328 in favor and 104 opposed. Natalia Poklonskaya — Crimea’s former attorney general and the Christian conservative who led the charge against a recent film dramatizing Nicholas II’s romance with Mathilde Kschessinska (before he became tsar) — voted against the legislation. Another eight United Russia deputies (including the prominent politicians Sergey Zheleznyak and Vitaly Milonov) did not participate in the vote.
In a small concession to the bill’s opponents, lawmakers agreed to extend deliberations on amendments to the legislation from August 18 to September 24. Deputies were reportedly told to refrain from criticizing Vladimir Putin during debate on the legislation’s first reading.
What is this bill? In June, the Russian government submitted draft legislation to the State Duma, establishing a plan to raise the country’s retirement age from 60 to 65 for men by 2028, and from 55 to 63 for women by 2034. Public opinion polls show that Russians largely oppose this proposal, and one of the most common objections is that people fear they won’t live to collect their pensions under the new system. Russia has witnessed relatively small but nationwide protests against the pension age hike. After the reforms were announced, Vladimir Putin’s re-election rating slipped to 54 percent in late June — his lowest score since before Russia annexed Crimea.
During the State Duma’s debate and vote on the pension reform bill, protesters (led by several leftists and democratic oppositionists) assembled outside the parliament building. One organizer said at least 500 people attended the rally, but Kommersant’s correspondent on the ground said there were no more than 120 people.
Twelve regions across the country — Dagestan, Chechnya, Yakutia, Kamchatka, Irkutsk, Kemerovo, Omsk, Oryol, Yaroslavl, and Russia’s Jewish autonomous regions, as well as Moscow — have formally objected to the plan to raise the retirement age. The chairman of the State Duma’s Labor, Social Policy, and Veterans’ Affairs Committee previously claimed that 77 of Russia’s 85 regions had formally responded to the pension initiative, and supposedly none of them objected to the legislation.
Russia’s Civic Chamber, headed by former Finance Minister Alexey Kudrin, has also filed formal objections to the current legislation, arguing that the draft bill fails to specify what calculations will determine the relationship between higher retirement ages and pension benefits’ annual inflation adjustments, as well as under what conditions Russia’s pension system will be balanced in the long term. Kudrin’s group also warns that the legislation doesn't consider how the government’s planned measures to boost life expectancy will affect how many Russians live to claim their pensions.