Support for Russia's Ruling Party Slips in Regional Elections Amid Pension Protests

The Moscow mayoral election is the highest-profile vote but serious opposition candidates have been kept off the ballot paper in favour of incumbent Sergei Sobyanin

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.

Putin promised in 2005 never to raise the age for Russians to receive a pension, but Russia is facing a crisis, and President Putin seems not to have other alternatives.

The protests against pension reform in 19 cities of Russian Federation arrested 153 people.

"I have come here to protest against the pension reform, I have to live in this country and I want to have hope for the future and a good old age", said 22-year-old Nikolai Borodin.

United Russia also lost ground to the Communist Party and LDPR in some areas in weekend elections to regional parliaments.

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.

He had planned to lead Sunday's protest in Moscow, but a court last month convicted him of breaking protest laws and jailed him for 30 days.

Activists say Russian police have detained some 300 protesters after thousands turned out in Moscow, St. Petersburg and elsewhere to protest plans to raise the pension age.

Images from the St. Petersburg protests quickly went viral.

The OVD-Info group, which tracks police detentions and posts the names of the detainees on its website, said Monday that 1,018 people were detained, almost half of them in St. Petersburg.

From 2019, the retirement age for men will be increased from 60 to 65 and from 55 to 60 for women.

As in previous rallies, numerous protesters were young, including minors, and pictures of the police manhandling teens went viral on social media.

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said police acted "in strict accordance with the law" adding that some were attacked by "hooligans and trouble-makers".

In Moscow, police opened two criminal probes over violence against representatives of the authorities, the monitor said.

In Moscow, however, authorities have implemented an aggressive get-out-the-vote campaign, including promises of free concert tickets to voters and setting up polling stations outside of the city to enable voters spending the summer at their dachas to participate.

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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