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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Sees Reform Mistakes

President Vladimir Putin on Thursday criticized his Cabinet and regional authorities, accusing them for a second time of failing to properly implement a Kremlin-sponsored social reform that triggered the largest public protests of his presidency.

Massive demonstrations spread to many cities across the country soon after the law substituting cash payments for benefits such as free public transportation and subsidized medicines took effect Jan. 1.

Crowds of protesters, most of them elderly, said new monthly payments of about $10 are worth much less than the benefits, and many worry they will no longer be able to afford to get where they need to go.

Putin has defended the reform itself, saying it is needed to streamline the country's system of supporting pensioners, veterans, the disabled and others, but acknowledged that the government had made mistakes in carrying it out.

"Both federal and regional authorities have failed to properly enforce the legal norms," he told members of the Federation Council in a Kremlin meeting.

Caving in to protests, authorities across Russia have restored free or subsidized transportation for the elderly, and the federal government has promised to raise pensions.

The average monthly pension received by the country's approximately 40 million pensioners is equivalent to about $80.

Observers have warned that public anger likely will grow once monthly utility bills start reflecting the cancellation of subsidized services, such as telephone and electricity.

Reflecting the government's concern about that, Putin warned the lawmakers to more thoroughly analyze the consequences of forthcoming healthcare, education and municipal housing reforms.

"Since any mistakes here would be extremely sensitive for the people, it's necessary to provide information about [the bills] and explain their meaning already in the stage of the bills' discussion and work together with the regions to fully prepare mechanisms of their implementation," he said.