Hundreds protest against pension reforms in Saint Petersburg

Russian riot policemen standing in line in front of demonstrators during a protest rally against planned increases to the nationwide pension age in Saint Petersburg on Sept 16. PHOTO: AFP

SAINT PETERSBURG (AFP) - Up to a thousand protesters demonstrated in Russia's second-largest city of Saint Petersburg on Sunday (Sept 16) against a plan to raise the state pension age.

Between 800 and 1,000 people gathered in a small park for an authorised demonstration to urge President Vladimir Putin's government to "Raise the pension, not the age", while some chanted the opposition catchphrase "Russia without Putin".

Police were on hand but said the rally passed without any serious violations, putting participants at 500.

One protester carried a placard saying "Riot police's truncheons won't save Vova", using a shortened form of Mr Putin's name.

Opposition politician and former MP Dmitry Gudkov, leader of the "Party for Changes", told the rally that the draft law to gradually raise the state pension age by five years to 65 for men and 60 for women shows the authorities' contempt for the public.

"They have decided to dig into our pockets," he complained.

The reform "demonstrates that the authorities have got tired of us... We need to tell them that we have got tired of them too".

One of the protestors, Mr Ivan Lozov, 30, said:"I came not just because of the (pension) reforms, but because of the way the authorities are lying. Television doesn't even talk about this officially."

One of the organisers, lawmaker Boris Vishnevsky from Yabloko liberal party, said: "If we can replace the authorities, we won't have to hold demonstrations."

The latest protest came after hundreds were detained earlier this month at nationwide demonstrations against the controversial reforms that were backed by opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is currently in jail.

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