MOSCOW: Tens of thousands of Russians took part Saturday in rallies across the country organised by Communists to protest against highly controversial plans to hike the pension age.
In Moscow, organisers said up to 100,000 people gathered for a permitted rally against the government-backed reform, which is currently going through parliament. However, observers put the turnout much lower.
Protests took place in dozens of cities and towns in far eastern Russia and Siberia. Around 1,200 people rallied in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, TASS state news agency reported, citing city hall.
Demonstrators in Moscow chanted "Pension-off Putin!" and carried banners with slogans including "We want to live on our pensions and not die at work."
The rare show of public opposition to a reform backed by President Vladimir Putin's ruling party has seen 2.9 million sign a protest petition and the often compliant Communist Party vote against it.
Putin, who did not mention the pension issue ahead of his re-election in March, has seen public trust in his presidency fall to 64 per cent this month, down from 80 per cent in May, according to VTsIOM state pollster.
The draft law calls for the pension age to be gradually raised to 63 for women and 65 for men, up from the current Soviet-era norms of 55 for women and 60 for men.
Putin last week said he disliked the idea of raising the pension age but that doing nothing was not an option, adding "we will have to take some crucial decisions".
"Tens of thousands have gathered here to say no to this pension reform," Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov told the Moscow rally.
"This is a blow to every citizen in our country."
Currently, Russian men on average die in their early 60s, Zyuganov said, and "they will all get their pension in their coffins".
The speaker of the lower house of parliament, representing Putin's United Russia ruling party, said Friday that such protests were pointless.
"You can't resolve these questions at demonstrations," Vyacheslav Volodin told the Communist faction in parliament.