- Associated Press - Friday, July 20, 2018

MOSCOW (AP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to be trying to tamp down public distress over a proposal to raise the national retirement age, saying he will listen to “all opinions” on the matter.

The lower house of parliament on Thursday passed the first reading of a law to raise the pension age for men to 65, up from 60, and from 55 to 63 for women.

Activists from both Communist and free-market parties held demonstrations ahead of the vote, reflecting the unusually broad resistance to the pension changes. Putin’s trust rating in public opinion surveys has fallen significantly since the government introduced the retirement proposal in June.

Putin says Friday “there’s no final decision yet … I, of course, will listen to all opinions, all points of view.”

However, Putin did not suggest the proposed change would be walked back, saying that rising life expectancy in Russia puts the current system under too much pressure.

Russia’s economy suffered for several years because of Western sanctions imposed after the annexation of Crimea and a drop in world oil prices, but last year recorded a gross domestic product growth of about 1.5 percent.

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