From today's RFE/RL Newsline:
PENSIONERS CONTINUE BENEFITS PROTESTS... On 13 January, pensioners staged protests for the fourth day in a row against the recent social-benefits reform. Retirees in the Krasnogorsk District of Moscow Oblast and in Samara gathered on 13 January in front of local administration buildings to register their objections to the replacement of in-kind benefits such as free public transportation with cash payments (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11, 12, and 13 January 2005). Local authorities have started to bring legal cases against people whom they have identified as the organizers of the protests, gazeta.ru reported. Ten demonstrators from Khimki who managed to stop traffic along a major thoroughfare to the city of Moscow are facing charges, and Udmurtia's prosecutor has vowed to pursue proceedings against the organizers of a 5,000-strong meeting in Izhevsk. Four participants in a rally in Podolsk, who were described as the most active, have legal actions pending against them, according to lenta.ru. However, police did not make arrests in Samara or in Krasnogorsk on 13 January, according to gazeta.ru. Police are reportedly sympathetic to the protestors because the police themselves have also been deprived of free public transportation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 January 2005). JAC
...AS PATRIARCH, TOP MILITARY OFFICIAL SUPPORT PROTESTORS...
Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II appeared to give the protesting pensioners his verbal support in comments made on 13 January, Interfax reported. He said that reforms must not "deprive people of the possibility to use transportation and communication tools, keep their housing, and have access to medical care and
medicine." He continued: "If this is not the case, a tragedy is inevitable for millions of our citizens who have worked for the good of the country all their lives and now need protection and care." Air Force Commander Vladimir Mikhailov said on 13 January that the replacement of benefits with cash will negatively affect young
officers, explaining that public-transportation costs have become a real burden for them, Ekho Moskvy reported. JAC