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Russia softens reforms to calm public anger

RUSSIA – The government is to increase the monthly labour pension by an average 240 rubles (E6.6) as of March, the Health and Social Development Ministry announced.

That means basic pension will increase to 900 rubles. The increase in the basic pension will not be same for all categories of pensioners - dependent persons will receive 300 rubles more, while WWII invalids will up to 1,200 rubles additionally, according to the Ministry.

Originally, Russia planned only a 100-ruble increase of the labour pension scheduled to take effect April.

The government earmarked additional 4.1 billion rubles for Russian pensioners for this year.

The Russian average monthly pension with other allowances currently stands at 2,170 rubles, which is about 80 US dollars.

Social security reforms took effect in Russia at the start of the year. On top of the 100-ruble average increase in basic pensions, the reforms were also to include revocation of free public transport benefits for pensioners.

However, the reforms sparked protests among pensioners, president Putin’s most loyal supporters, across the country. The demonstrations turned into the most serious social unrest in Putin’s five years in the office.

In order to calm down the protests, the Russian government now offers pensioners also the choice between continuing to receive free transport coupons and receiving financial compensation.

There are some 40 million pensioners in Russia with population of 144 million.

According to a recent poll by the Yury Levada Analytical Center, over half of Russians (53%) are against Putin's original proposal to give retirees 100-ruble cash pensions instead of forfeited benefits.

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