Russian rights group says over 1,000 detained at protests

Minnie Murray
September 12, 2018

Thousands protested against the pension reform on September 9 at rallies in 80 Russian cities organized by opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Yekaterinburg comes the second with 183 people being detained.

Nearly 300 people, many of them supporters of the opposition activist Alexei Navalny, were arrested in 19 towns and cities.

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.

A Russian political rights organization reports at least 291 people were arrested in an attempt to stifle protests on Sunday.

The website for Russia's interior ministry didn't confirm the number of detentions, but a senior ministry official said around 100 people were detained in St. Petersburg and "a few people" were held in Moscow for violating the law, Russian news agency Interfax reported.

The government's plan calls for the eligibility age for retirement pensions to be raised by five years, to 65 for men and 60 for women.

Russian political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin told the Kyiv Post that the results were due to Putin's pension reform plan and worsening economic conditions amid Western sanctions.

Police violently broke up unsanctioned rallies, including in Saint Petersburg where more than 450 people were detained.

Supporters of Alexei Navalny, the leader of the liberal Russian Federation of the Future party, were quick to slam the US-based multinational company for what they described as a surrender in the face of illegal demands made by the administration of President Vladimir Putin, Efe news reported.

United Russia also suffered defeats to the Communists in party-list votes for three regional parliaments. They are the most unpopular government measure since a 2005 move to scrap Soviet-era benefits, which led to nationwide pensioner protests.

Sergei Sobyanin, the Kremlin-backed incumbent mayor who has run the capital since 2010, was expected to receive about 70 percent of the vote in the Moscow mayoral election. Protesters in Moscow chanted "Russia without Putin" and held signs including "Putin, when will you go on pension?"

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

But Mr Putin and government officials say the age hike is necessary because rising life expectancy in Russian Federation could exhaust pension resources if the eligibility age remains the same.

Four candidates from Russia's ruling United Russia party have failed to secure first-round victories in gubernatorial elections over the weekend and will now face their respective challengers in a runoff.

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