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Pensions allowances paid by the Russian government to 25,000 to 30,000 retirees who are Russian citizens living in Israel are set to increase on December 1 by 23 percent. Pensions will be raised again on August 1 by about 13 percent, for a total of at least 40 percent within eight months.

Millions of retirees living in Russia, as well as citizens of the country living outside its borders - mostly in the US, Germany and Israel - will benefit from the increase. Russian pensioners currently receive a monthly allowance of $52. This will climb to $64 in December, and reach $73 in August. Women 55 and over, and men 60 and over, are eligible for the pension stipend.

Not included among those set to enjoy increased pensions are 170,000 immigrants from other countries that formed the USSR until 1991, such as Ukraine, Belarus and Uzbekistan.

The increase of pension payments to Russian retirees, including those residing in other countries, reflects a substantial improvement in the Russian economy during Vladimir Putin's eight-year term as president.

The timing is believed to be more than coincidence. Elections for the Russian parliament, the Duma, are scheduled for December 2. Putin, who enjoys great popularity in his country, will wind up his second term as president in early 2008, and according to the Russian constitution he is not eligible to run for another term. Nevertheless, Putin does not intend to retire from the political spotlight, and analysts believe that he is seeking candidacy for prime minister.

Alex Tenzer, who heads the Russian desk of the Gil Pensioners Party, said that the governments of these countries are also willing to pay pension allowances to their retired citizens living in Israel, on condition that the Israeli government sign agreements with them on this issue. Tenzer said that organizations of former residents of these countries, along with a number of Knesset members, are urging the government to do so. According to Tenzer, half of the 180,000 retirees in Israel living below the poverty level are from the former USSR.