Russians protest against pension age hike

The Russian president takes a ballot at the polling station in Moscow. The vote for Moscow's new mayor came amid protests against plans to hike the retirement age and support for jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny

A total of 1,018 protesters were arrested nationwide, according to the OVD-Info detention monitoring site.

The protest comes as Russians vote to elect governors, local lawmakers and other officials.

Protesters say the planned reform places a strain on families trying to plan for the future.

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny had planned to lead protests on Sunday but was detained and sentenced to 30 days in jail for breaking protest laws.

News reports and tallies from the OVD-Info organization that monitors political repressions showed at least 40 arrests connected with the protests elsewhere, including 12 each in the cities of Khabarovsk and Tomsk. Protests organized by the Communist Party were held across Russian Federation earlier this month.

Later Putin modified the proposal so women would retire at age 60.

Sergei Sobyanin, mayor of the Russian capital since 2010, received 70.02 percent of the vote, according to results released by the Moscow election commission. But despite a huge get-out-the-vote campaign, turnout was just 30 percent as many Muscovites stayed away.

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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"They're spending money on the army in Syria, in Ukraine, for the president's friends, but nothing for pensioners", Olga Chenushka, a 44-year-old finance manager told AFP.

Almost half of those detained were rounded up in St. Petersburg, according to the OVD-Info. Photos on social media indicated majority were attended by 100 or more protesters, but the crowd in St. Petersburg appeared to exceed 1,000.

Navalny's group said its St. Petersburg coordinator and another of its activists were detained in St. Petersburg as well. "We also require advertisers to act in accordance with the local law and our advertising policies", Google said.

Although the numbers were not big, the authorities broke up rallies in Moscow and St Petersburg using the OMON riot police.

Observers noted fewer people turned up to protest against the reform than in May after Putin softened the pension reform.

The proposal, which would raise the retirement age from 60 to 65 for men and 55 to 60 for women, is highly unpopular in Russian Federation, boasting a disapproval rating of roughly 80 percent.

Sobyanin's supporters say he has transformed Moscow with billion-dollar renovation projects that include a showpiece central park and new pedestrian areas along with a string of new metro stations.

But critics argue these are a sop to a new urban middle class which has in the past protested against Putin's rule, as the Kremlin continues to crack down on political freedoms.

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