Hundreds Arrested in Russia Protesting Pension Reform

A man shouts slogans during a protest against a proposed increase of the retirement age in Moscow

A man shouts slogans during a protest against a proposed increase of the retirement age in Moscow

The issue has galvanized citizens and initially hurt the popularity of President Vladimir Putin, who in August sought to quell the discontent by suggesting amendments to dilute the proposal.

The first rallies against the policy change occurred in eastern Russian on Sunday morning, with protesters walking through Moscow holding red balloons escorted by police. However, the unexpected outcome is that Putin, by closing off politics to liberal parties, has only strengthened the Communist Party as the main opposition party.

Countrywide protests against raising of the pension age, organized by supporters of opposition figure Aleksey Navalny, have ended in calls to disperse and mass arrests from the police.

A demonstration in Moscow's Pushkin Square attracted around 2,000 people, who chanted slogans such as "Russia without Putin" and held signs reading, "Putin, when will you go on pension?" The protests took a violent turn as protesters tried to march towards parliament and were beaten back by police.

Photos on social media indicated most of the protests were attended by 100 or more people, with some apparently drawing several hundred. In St. Petersburg, the crowd appeared to exceed 1,000.

The group said at least 354 people were detained in the city.

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A lawyer for Navalny's Anti-Corruption Fund was arrested in Moscow before the rally. The city of Yekaterinburg in the Urals saw the highest number of arrests - 58 in total, the group said.

Raising the pension is opposed both by older people, who fear they won't live long enough to collect significant benefits, and by younger Russians anxious that keeping people in the workforce longer will limit their own employment opportunities. We're stealing our future, too. Photos on social media indicated majority were attended by 100 or more protesters, but the crowd in St. Petersburg appeared to exceed 1,000.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's close ally has been overwhelmingly re-elected Moscow's mayor, election officials said on Monday, following a poll overshadowed by protests over a pension reform.

"The authorities are not listening to people and that means it's time to take to the streets", it added. "I want to say this to older people: The young have to take the hit for us and come out because we don't".

Oreshkin said, however, that there is so far little danger to Putin's power despite the unpopularity of the pension reform.

However, life expectancy in Russia remains low, at 66 for men and 77 for women, meaning that 43 percent of Russian men are not expected to reach the age of 65, according to data from the World Bank.

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