Russian Police Detain Over 800 People Protesting Pension Changes

By Reuters

MOSCOW — The Russian police detained more than 800 people protesting planned increases to the retirement age on Sunday, a rights group said, disrupting demonstrations against an unpopular change that has hurt President Vladimir V. Putin’s approval rating.

The protests, organized by the jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his supporters, were a challenge to the authorities, who were hoping for a high turnout at regional elections being held on Sunday.

Footage of the protests, which were held in more than 80 towns and cities, showed the police sometimes using force to disperse rallies, beating participants with batons and dragging them away. The authorities declared most of the protests illegal.

OVD-Info, a rights organization that monitors detentions, said 839 people had been detained by the police in 33 cities, including some of Mr. Navalny’s closest aides.

It said most of the detentions had been made in St. Petersburg, where the authorities had initially authorized a rally before reversing the decision. The interior ministry was cited by the Interfax news agency as saying that the police had made around 100 detentions in St. Petersburg and “several” in Moscow.

The proposed pension changes, which are now before Parliament, have shaved around 15 points off Mr. Putin’s popularity rating. It is the most unpopular government measure since a 2005 move to scrap Soviet-era benefits.

Mr. Navalny, barred from state television and prevented from running against Mr. Putin for president this year, hopes to tap into public anger over the pension change. He had planned to lead Sunday’s protest in Moscow, but a court last month convicted him of breaking protest laws and jailed him for 30 days.

In Moscow, where the authorities had rejected an application from Mr. Navalny’s supporters to protest, around 2,000 people gathered in the central Pushkin Square, the authorities and Reuters reporters estimated.

Some of them chanted “Russia will be free” and “Putin is a thief.” Riot police officers ordered them to disperse or face prosecution. Some protesters then marched through central Moscow before the riot police halted them.

Despite the subject of the protest — retirement — many of those who took part were young.

“They stole my future life,” said Katya Shomnikova, a 23-year-old protester. “We will have to correct what’s been done. I want a better life for myself and my children.”

After being amended by Mr. Putin, the pension change would raise the retirement age for men to 65 from 60, and for women to 60 from 55. Average life expectancy for men in Russia is 66 and for women 77.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)