Russian parliament approves Putin's controversial pension reform

Moscow (AFP) –


Russian parliament's lower house passed a controversial pension reform bill Wednesday, after President Vladimir Putin announced concessions to try to dampen widespread public anger over plans to raise the state retirement age.

The bill, which still has to go through the formality of a third reading and senate hearing, would see Russian men retire at 65 instead of 60 and has sparked rare national protest, with tens of thousands rallying across Russia in recent months.

The lower house passed the controversial legislation in a key second reading, with 326 votes for, 59 against and one abstention.

Parliament's lower house, the State Duma, earlier in the day approved Putin's proposed amendments to the reform, raising the state pension age for women by five years to 60, instead of eight years to 63 originally proposed.

Several dozen people staged a protest outside the State Duma on Wednesday, including opposition activist Sergei Udaltsov who held a poster reading: "Retirement age increase is genocide!"

Another protester held a picture of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev with an inscription reading "An enemy of the people".

In a rare televised address in August, the Russian president proposed a number of concessions, in an apparent attempt to stem a major fall in his approval ratings.

But the concessions have done little to pacify ordinary Russians.

Most are opposed to the hike in retirement age and critics said the reform would essentially rob ordinary people of their earnings.

Given the low life expectancy of Russian men -- 65 years -- many would not live long enough under the reform to receive a state pension.

Some 3,000 people demonstrated in Moscow last week against the reform in a protest organised by the Communist Party.