Lying behind the parliament vote was a wave of public protests against social welfare reforms. Thousands of angry pensioners, who’ve been most affected, have hit the streets. This generation’s largely supportive of President Putin, but it’s already pressured the government to restore some benefits and spend an extra three billion euros. The over 65s represent 13.7 per cent of the population, or nearly one in seven Russians: that means a group of 33 million people set to be hit by changes in social welfare.
With average monthly pensions at 60 Euros, that is half the average salary, many in the age range are vulnerable and dependent on benefits that survived the collapse of communism. Now provisions such as free public transport and medicines and reduced energy bills are set to be replaced by cash payments.
It’s part of the Kremlin’s drive to save 6 billion Euros out of the 21 billion Euro social security budget. The plan involves making payments of anything up to 94 euros a month and scrapping the free at point of delivery idea. 58-year-old Antonina Kozhurkova lives with her disabled mother in a small apartment in Noginsk, west of Moscow. She’s just got her monthly rent bill of 33 euros.Her pension does not quite cover that, but previously the state paid half the rent. Now, instead, she will receive 26 euros in cash every month. “What is this compensation? It’s supposed to cover everything including trips to rest homes, but it it simply laughable, of course it’s not going to be enough for me. I know I’ll have to work until I die. God give me strong hands so that I can earn some money.” Another example of the problems to come. In large cities, public transport users who travel for free outnumber those who pay for their trips on the metro or bus. They will now get five and a half euros a month but in Moscow, where a monthly pass costs 28 euros, some say they long for the certainties of the Soviet era.