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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Protesting Pensioners Stop Traffic

MTAn official takes pensioners' complaints at a rally Monday on Leningradskoye Shosse.
Thousands of retirees rallied across the country on Sunday and Monday to protest the removal of Soviet-era benefits that took effect Jan. 1.

About 500 pensioners blocked Leningradskoye Shosse in the Moscow suburb of Khimki for two hours on Monday in a rally that was not sanctioned by the authorities, Interfax reported. They protested against the requirement to pay the full cost of house maintenance and the removal of their right to free rides on public transportation, RIA-Novosti reported.

Under the new law, the benefits were replaced by small cash payments that pensioners have complained are insufficient compensation. House maintenance costs and fares on public transport also rose Jan. 1.

Police managed to clear the road and restore traffic. Two pensioners were hospitalized after clashes with riot police, Ekho Moskvy cited witnesses as saying.

The Communist Party said on its web site that it had not organized the rally, and called it "spontaneous."

Moscow Region Governor Boris Gromov held an emergency local government session Monday in response to the protests. Gromov's spokesman, Andrei Barkovsky, said the Moscow region is continuing to fund many of the benefits after Jan. 1, but that free rides on public transportation were effective only outside Moscow.

"Pensioners can have free rides in Khimki, but if they come to Moscow ... they are asked to pay for the ride in full," he said, Interfax reported.

Similar unsanctioned protests, organized by the Communist Party, took place in another Moscow region town, Solnechnogorsk, as well as in Samara, Tatarstan and the Leningrad region.

The Solnechnogorsk protest on Sunday attracted more than 500 people, the Communist Party said on its web site. Party members formed a chain across Leningradskoye Shosse and blocked traffic for half and hour. Police briefly detained at least eight protesters.

The protest was timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of a massacre of St. Petersburg factory workers that triggered the 1905 revolution, the Communist Party said.

In Samara, about 80 pensioners carrying red flags and placards blocked the city's main street for an hour Monday, senior city police official Valery Trofimov said, RIA-Novosti reported. The police dispersed the rally.