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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

3,000 Rally Near Belorussky Station

APPolice officers standing guard during a rally over benefits near Belorussky Station on Saturday. The banner reads, "Putin Resign!"
In the single largest protest against the monetization of Soviet-era benefits yet in Moscow, some 3,000 pensioners and other demonstrators rallied at Belorussky Station on Saturday with portraits of Lenin and a long banner reading, "Putin Resign!"

Pensioners also rallied over the weekend in Samara, Krasnoyarsk, Stavropol, Ufa and Kazan.

Despite wind and wet snow, scores of pensioners and activists from radical youth groups gathered on the square outside Belorussky Station, one of the busiest in central Moscow, and chanted "Resign!" to the government and "No Genocide of the People!"

The rally was led by the Communist Party but included supporters of small hard-line groups like Viktor Anpilov's Working Russia and Red Youth Vanguard. Police detained the leader and nine activists from Red Youth Vanguard as they attempted to march to Staraya Ploshchad to break into the presidential administration building after the rally.

The target of protesters' anger is a social reform law, backed by President Vladimir Putin, that took effect Jan. 1 and replaces Soviet-era benefits like free public transportation and medicine with meager cash payments. Many regions were not ready to pay pensioners, leading to the wave of protests that started Jan. 10.

Mayor Yury Luzhkov kept in place many benefits that were monetized in other regions, a decision that appears to have delayed protests in the capital.

At a State Duma session dedicated mostly to the benefits law Friday, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin and Health and Social Development Minister Mikhail Zurabov partially admitted that the Cabinet had made some mistakes in enforcing the law in the regions, but they stood by the reform.

Following a heated discussion, Dmitry Rogozin, leader of the nationalist Rodina faction, and four fellow deputies announced that they were going on a hunger strike to demand a moratorium on the law and the Cabinet's resignation. They were still on hunger strike Sunday evening.

Meanwhile, Vladimir Governor Nikolai Vinogradov, in remarks broadcast on state-run Rossia television, urged the federal government on Saturday to take over the financing of cash payments to pensioners from the regions.