Russian police detain hundreds protesting against pension reform

Russian police detain hundreds protesting against pension reform

The protests against pension reform in 19 cities of Russian Federation arrested 153 people.

The OVD-Info organization that monitors political repression reported that 291 people in all were detained in connection with the protests around the country. In Moscow police beat members of a crowd of about 5,000 with truncheons in Pushkin Square, according to video published by the opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta.

Thousands of of people took part in the demonstrations across 25 towns and cities, including in Moscow and in St. Petersburg, and almost 300 were arrested, according to monitoring groups.

The protests were called by Alexei Navalny, the anti-corruption activist who is President Vladimir Putin's most prominent foe.

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Navalny didn't take part in the protests, as he's now serving a 30-day sentence for violating public demonstration laws. The city of Yekaterinburg in the Urals saw the highest number of arrests - 58 in total, the group said.

Putin's popularity has plunged from over 80% into the 40s, but recovered somewhat after he appeared on TV last week and announced that he was softening the terms of the reform, raising the retirement age for women to just 63 rather than a mooted 65, and granting more exceptions, especially for women with lots of children.

Images from the St. Petersburg protests quickly went viral.

Video footage from the demonstration in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk showed a tense standoff between riot police and protesters, who chanted "shame, shame".

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United Russia also suffered defeats to the Communists in party-list votes for three regional parliaments. Opinion polls put Navalny's support in the single digits, but backers note he won nearly a third of the vote in a 2013 Moscow mayoral race, and believe he could give Putin a run for his money if ever allowed to run against him on a level playing field.

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.

"These elections are a defeat for the authorities", said Valery Solovei, a political analyst at the Moscow State Institute for International Relations. The president responded by offering some concessions, but argued that the age hike is necessary because rising life expectancy in Russian Federation could exhaust pension resources if the eligibility age remains the same.

While candidates from the ruling United Russia party performed strongly overall, four United Russia candidates running for governor were forced into run-off votes after failing to win majorities.

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