Piotr Stegny
Russian ambassador to Israel Piotr Stegny. Photo by Nir Kafri
Text size
Tomer Appelbaum
Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum

The Russian government has decided in principle to begin paying working pensions to immigrants who left Russia for Israel before 1993. The official statement was made yesterday by Russian ambassador Piotr Stegny to Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver.

Experts of the Russian health and social development ministry are currently fleshing out the agreement, but Israel will need to provide Russia with considerable amounts of data before the agreement acquires legal status in Russia. The move represents a change in the Russian position on the matter, which used to be based on a claim that the immigrants who gave up Soviet citizenship also forfeited their right to a pension.

According to Israeli-Russian website Izrus, Israel would need to provide Russia with lists of pensioners, victims of work accidents and victims of the Chernobyl disaster, together with accurate data on the date of their immigration, the areas of the former USSR in which the pensioners worked and lived, their work experience (beginning with a minimum of five years ) and other information. In Soviet Russia, the retirement age was 60 for men and 55 for women.

Matvei Soperson, who has been working on the pensions issue for several years, told Haaretz he believes this decision concerns up to 100,000 Israelis, who will be able to enjoy an addition of $120 to $250 a month to their pensions. "We may assume that the processes will be completed before January 2012, and will become law. The pension fund will provide a separate budget for the payments."

It is not yet clear if the payments will be retroactive.

"This will be a significant addition to our pension," said Rosalia Margolis, 83, a resident of Ashdod who worked in the Soviet Union for nearly 40 years. "I'm not starving, but living sparingly is no great pleasure, especially with rent and basic food prices going up. I hope they'll keep their word this time."

Last year and earlier this year, the European Court in Strasbourg committed Russia to paying 30 immigrants their accumulated pensions since 1998, with added compensation for the distress they suffered after the state upheld a decision by the Russian Supreme Court canceling an earlier regional court ruling which said the pensions needed to be paid.

Emmanuel, 72, immigrated to Israel with his wife in 1991 from a large industrial city in the Ural mountains. He said he and his wife's pensions together amount to NIS 2,000, and he is forced to work as a security guard.

"Will I be happy if we get extra pension? I'll be happy with every dime, every ruble we get out of them, after 30 years of work. How much will I get? $150-200 a month? That's more or less what we pay for food every month, so why shouldn't I be happy?"