July 4, 2018 / 3:59 PM / 4 months ago

World Cup in Russia eclipses government plan to up retirement age - poll

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russians said in June the soccer World Cup stuck in their memories more than the government’s plan to raise the retirement age, an opinion poll by the Levada Centre showed on Wednesday.

A sign with the logo of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia is on display near the Kremlin, in central Moscow, Russia November 29, 2017. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin/Files

On June 14, the opening day of the World Cup that Russia is hosting this year, the government said it wanted to raise the retirement age for both men and women, announcing an unpopular measure designed to ease pressure on state finances.

The Levada poll showed 56 percent of respondents said the World Cup was best remembered, replying to a question to outline the most memorable events of the past four weeks.

The government’s decision to raise the retirement age was mentioned as the most memorable development by 31 percent of those who took part in the poll carried out between June 22 and 26.

Critics said the government had deliberately chosen to announce the pension plan in mid-June so the World Cup news flow would outshine reports about the unpopular measure.

Still, thousands of Russians protested last Sunday over the decision to increase the retirement age, but there were no demonstrations in the cities hosting the World Cup because of security restrictions in force during the tournament.

A separate poll last week showed the number of Russians who said they would vote for President Vladimir Putin had fallen by eight percent in a week to 54 from 62 percent, while his approval rating was down six percent to 69 from 75 percent.

Putin, who won a landslide re-election victory in March and is himself 65, pledged in 2005 that he would never agree to raise the retirement age while president.

Last month, when asked about Putin’s apparent U-turn on the issue, Dmitry Peskov, his spokesman, said a lot of time had elapsed and the situation had changed.

The Levada poll of 1,600 people, released on Wednesday, also showed 13 percent of respondents said higher fuel and food prices along with low salaries and pensions were the main things to remember in the past four weeks.

The opening of the bridge to Crimea from Russia’s mainland was recalled by two percent of respondents, while events in Ukraine or Syria were mentioned by one percent of those who participated in the Levada poll.

Reporting by Andrey Ostroukh; Editing by Kirsten Donovan

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