Russians protest over benefits change

Thousands of poor Russians have protested in the latest of a series of demonstrations over a government benefits decision that has dented President Vladimir Putin's popularity.

    Some protesters' placards read 'Stop robbing pensioners'

    Several thousand pensioners gathered on Saturday in the centre of Moscow saying the government should be fired for its decision to give cash payouts in lieu of social benefits, such as free travel, that are a legacy of the Soviet era.

    Demonstrators led by the Communist Party carried "Stop robbing pensioners" placards, red flags and portraits of Vladimir Lenin.

    The communists also led about 1000 people in the southern city of Stavropol in protest against the cash payouts, which they say do not cover the full amount of benefits.


    Protests against replacing benefits from the start of the year led Putin to publicly chide members of the government over the way the cash-for-benefits substitution has been carried out.

    Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said on Friday the government took full blame for the move and that he might draw on a budget stabilisation fund to boost pensioner payouts.

    Countrywide protests

    Interfax quoted a Communist Party official as saying that the party planned another countrywide protest on 12 February.

    Protestors are also objecting
    to electricity price hikes

    Communists and the nationalist Rodina party led several thousand protesters in Samara in central Russia.

    About 5000 people in Ufa in the Urals also demanded the dismissal of the local government over the benefits issue.

    About 200 people, headed by communists and local trade unions, held a two-hour demonstration against electricity price hikes in Krasnoyarsk in Siberia.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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