Sunday, January 16, 2005

Pensioners' Protest

At Neeka's Backlog, some remarkable reporting and photographs from the pensioners' rallies in St Petersburg on Saturday. These protests are of a rather different order from those on Kyiv's Maidan, however:
The media say a few thousand people gathered at two locations, Nevskiy and Sadovaya intersection, and Moskovskiy Prospekt. I went to Nevskiy Prospekt and Sadovaya around 4 pm - never been able to calculate how big the crowds are but today it looked comparatively small - compared to Maidan, that is. One way in which Nevskiy resembled Khreshchatyk today was no traffic was allowed on it (unlike Khreshchatyk, Nevskiy is never pedestrian on weekends). Old people were blocking the street, letting neither cars, nor public buses, trolleybuses and trams pass. A hundred or so young people were represented by the National Bolshevik Party guys (their flags are remindful of both the Nazi and the Soviet ones, and here's a link to their posters), the Russian Young Communist League (Che Guevara flags) and the anarchists.

The slogans were anti-Putin ("Putina - v sortir!" - something like "Putin down the toilet!" - was the cutest one, an allusion to his famous quote about killing terrorists when they're taking a leak, a very approximate translation of "mochit' v sortirah"), anti-Matviyenko (St. Pete's governor, Putin's protege), anti-United Russia Party (pro-Putin majority in the Duma) and anti-government.

The reason they are protesting, in a nutshell, is because a new law has replaced certain benefits, such as free public transportation for pensioners, servicemen, people with disabilities and other groups, as well as discounts on housing and utilities costs, with monetary compensations (from $7 to $15 monthly as reimbursement for transportation fares, for example), which are not enough and the people feel robbed. (I'm not sure what an average pension here is but I doubt the majority is getting over $100 a month.)

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