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Reforms in Russia Spark Public Outcry

Nationwide protests by retirees decrying cuts to social subsidies apparently take the government by surprise.

January 15, 2005|Kim Murphy | Times Staff Writer

In Podolsk, pensioners say they would be hit hard by the second phase of the change, which beginning in 2006 will eliminate housing, telephone and electricity subsidies.

The monthly cash stipend for transportation is 200 rubles a month, or about $7.

"This is humiliating. I don't need those paltry 200 rubles that are thrown to me like a dog," said retiree Rimma Trunova, 67.

Raisa Grishina, 65, said she spent 30 rubles a day riding the bus to visit her parents. "We're going to be literally spending our entire pension on what used to be covered by these benefits," she said.

On a downtown street corner, Raisa Korabelnikova broke into tears as she squatted over a box of garlic, carrots and tomatoes from her garden she was selling to supplement her pension.

"You wouldn't believe it, but there was a young man here buying cabbage one day who said: 'When are you going to die? We can't keep supporting you anymore.' I told him, 'Don't you have a mother?'

"I'm 77 years old. We worked hard all our lives. We dug trenches during the war because we realized how much the motherland needed it. Judging by the input we made, we're entitled to a cozy life in front of a television set," she said. "And instead we're here selling cabbage in the middle of winter. The problem is, there's no one to defend us. No one wants us."

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