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Pension reform forces one Russian to defer retirement dream

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MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian engineer Natalia Epikhina bought herself a house with a garden, thinking she was in the home stretch to retirement – but a proposed pension reform means she may have much less time to enjoy it.

The 52-year-old engineer has been among thousands protesting against proposals to raise the retirement age from 60 to 65 for men and from 55 to 63 for women. The reform would be phased in; Epikhina could expect to work to 58.

“I became very angry and I began to campaign everywhere,” she said.

According to the World Health Organisation, Russia ranked 110th in the world for life expectancy in 2015, and many Russians fear they will not live to receive their pension.

Epikhina reasoned she would live to around 64 like her mother, giving her nine years of retirement. She began to plan.

She ploughed her savings into a countryside “dacha” home, planting vegetables and installing a greenhouse, hoping to live at least in part on home-grown food.

“I wanted to live my old age with dignity,” said Epikhina, who earns 20,000 rubles (£235.8) a month and expects to receive a pension of 12,000.

The Kremlin has for years shied away from a reform that was certain to be unpopular. President Vladimir Putin has said no final decision has been taken, but the sky-high approval ratings that saw him re-elected this year have slipped.

For a demonstration in Moscow on July 29, Epikhina made a sign reading: “Pensions are sacred. Don’t quarrel with the people.”

(Reporting by Anastasia Adasheva; Writing by Tom Balmforth)

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