Published: Wed, September 12, 2018
Worldwide | By Myra Stephens

What Russian pension protests mean for Vladimir Putin

What Russian pension protests mean for Vladimir Putin

Supporters of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny protested across Russian Federation against planned increases to the pension age on Sunday, a challenge to the authorities who are holding regional elections on the same day.

Navalny reportedly said his arrest was an attempt to derail Sunday's planned protests.

More than 1,000 people were detained at anti-government protests across the country in what the Kremlin on Monday called a legitimate response to unauthorized rallies.

The election-day protests against the pension-reform plan that were organized by Navalny triggered harsh crackdowns by riot police in several cities and led to criminal charges against some of the more than 1,000 protesters detained nationwide.

Police on September 9 detained 839 people at the election-day protests, which were held in dozens of cities and towns across Russian Federation, according to OVD-Info.

The Russian news portal OVD-Info, which tracks the arrest of protesters, said more than 830 demonstrators were detained on September 9 at protests in 33 towns and cities across Russia.

It said 129 were held in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg, 60 in the southwestern city of Krasnodar, and 48 in Perm in the Ural Mountains.

The series of YouTube videos featured Navalny inviting Russians to join demonstrations on Sunday, when polls suggest President Vladimir Putin's former chief-of-staff Sergei Sobyanin will be comfortably re-elected as the capital's mayor.

"The authorities are not listening to people and that means it's time to take to the streets", Navalny's team said in a pre-protest statement. He added that "hooligans and provocateurs" mixed up with protesters and assailed police.

The protests were a challenge to the authorities who were hoping for a high turnout at regional elections, also being held on Sunday, despite widespread anger over the pension move.

"These elections are a defeat for the authorities", said Valery Solovei, a political analyst at the Moscow State Institute for International Relations. "I want a better life for myself and my children".

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. Average life expectancy for men in Russian Federation is 66 and for women 77.

In advance of the vote, a Moscow court jailed Navalny for 30 days, just a couple weeks before he planned to stage a rally on election day.

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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