Kremlin opponents across Russia took to the streets on Sunday to protest planned hikes to the retirement age, just as authorities were holding regional elections on the same day. Hundreds took part in the demonstrations across 25 towns and cities, including in Moscow and in St. Petersburg. The protests were called by opposition leader and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny, who is currently serving a 30-day jail sentence in connection with an unrelated protest back in January. Around 50 of his supporters were arrested ahead of Sunday’s rallies, although that failed to stop them from going ahead. Another 150 people were arrested at the various protests, according to independent monitoring group OVD-Info.
The Russian government plans to raise the retirement age by five years — from 60 to 65 for men and 55 to 60 for women. Average life expectancy in Russia is 66 for men and 77 for women.
The proposal has triggered a rare public outburst and seen President Vladimir Putin’s approval ratingsuffer a 15-percent hit.
Despite sitting behind bars, Navalny still made his presence felt ahead of the demonstrations. “For 18 years, Putin and his government have stolen from the budget and squandered it on meaningless projects. Now the money’s run out and we have to steal from pensioners to make ends meet,” Navalny’s social media team posted as they called on the public to take to the street.