ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) – Around 500 people demonstrated in St Petersburg on Sunday against planned increases in Russia’s pension age, a week after hundreds were detained for protesting against the reform that has hurt President Vladimir Putin’s approval rating.
The proposed change, already amended by Putin, envisages raising the retirement age for men to 65, from 60, and to 60, from 55, for women and is the most unpopular government measure in Russia since a 2005 move to scrap Soviet-era benefits.
Sunday’s protest in Russia’s second city was smaller than rallies a week ago in 80 towns and cities that were organized by jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny. More than 800 people were detained during those demonstrations, the bulk of them in Saint Petersburg after the authorities there initially authorized a rally before reversing their decision.
The local branch of the Interior Ministry said that around 500 people had taken part in Sunday’s protest, which was held without “gross violations of public order.”
OVD-Info, a human rights organization that monitors detentions, said that three people had been detained during the rally.
The proposed pension changes, which are currently going through parliament, have shaved around 15 percentage points off Putin’s popularity rating.
(Reporting by Reuters TV; Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Susan Fenton)