Monday, January 24, 2005

Protests continue

From today's RFE/RL Newsline:
PROTESTS CONTINUE AROUND THE COUNTRY... Demonstrations against the social-benefits reform continued over the weekend throughout Russia, with the largest protests reported in Rostov-na-Donu, Krasnodar, Cherkessk, Kazan, and Murmansk, Russian media reported. More than 1,000 demonstrators took to the streets in Murmansk, while protesters in other cities numbered in the hundreds. About 2,000 people demonstrated in the Chavash Republic capital of Cheboksary on 22 January, ITAR-TASS reported. The same day, about 5,000 protestors demonstrated in the Bashkortostan capital of Ufa, demanding that the government resolve all conflicts associated with the reform by 26 February. In Krasnoyarsk, about 3,000 protesters took to the streets on 22 January to protest a proposed doubling of local electricity rates. Protestors, led by local Communist Party activists, attempted to block traffic on a bridge over the Yenisei River, but police prevented this, arresting five demonstration leaders. In Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, drivers of the so-called marshrutki -- minivan taxis that traverse set routes -- went on strike on 24 January, demanding that local officials allow them to raise rates from seven rubles ($0.23) to 10 rubles per passenger and refusing to provide free transportation to those eligible for such benefits, Interfax reported. RC

...AS LOCAL AUTHORITIES CONTINUE GRANTING CONCESSIONS. Authorities in many regions continued the process of giving in to protestors' demands, as officials in Tambov Oblast and Tatarstan announced that the benefit of free public transportation will be restored for the rest of this year, Ekho Moskvy reported on 24 January. Similar measures are being implemented in Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast and Krasnodar Krai. RC

BENEFITS CRISIS TAKES ITS TOLL ON PUTIN'S POPULARITY... A poll by the Public Opinion Foundation conducted on 15-16 January found that support for President Putin has slipped by 5 percent since December, with 77 percent of respondents describing his work as "satisfactory," "good," or "excellent," Interfax reported on 22 January. Forty-three percent of respondents said they trust Putin, down from 47 percent in December. On 22 January, a demonstration in Moscow organized by the Communist Party called for Putin's resignation, Ekho Moskvy reported. Attendance at that protest was estimated at between 3,000 and 5,000 people. Interfax reported on 24 January that a poll conducted by the research arm of the Federation Council found that 80 percent of the officers in the Russian Army oppose the social-benefits reforms and sympathize with the demonstrators. Only 15 percent favor the reform. RC

...AS NEW POLICY AFFECTS RUSSIAN MILITARY. The Defense Ministry has reported that numerous military units have claimed that it is impossible for them to send military personnel to duty stations because they do not have the money to pay for transportation now that military personnel have lost the benefit of free public transport, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported 24 January. According to the daily, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov reported to President Putin in November that 34 percent of military personnel are living below the official poverty line. RC

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