Russian rights group says over 1,000 detained at protests

Thousand of Russians arrested at mass riots against retirement-age increase

Heeding a call from opposition leader Navalny, thousands took to the streets of dozens of cities against the controversial pension reform.

Russia's elections have been overshadowed by public anger over the government's plans to raise the pension age, as the country struggles with an aging population.

The protests against pension reform in 19 cities of Russian Federation arrested 153 people.

But opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is serving a month-long jail term over an earlier illegal protest, is trying to spoil the party with nationwide demonstrations against pension reforms. The ruling party also lost seats in some regional parliaments to members of the Communist Party and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russian Federation, the news agencies reported, citing election officials.

"In this situation, the authorities are interested in suppressing turnout a bit and making sure only "their" electorate shows up and votes the way they are supposed to", Stanislav Andreichuk, an elections analyst with the independent Golos election-monitoring group, told RFE/RL.

Putin has moved to raise the retirement age for women from 55 years old up to 60 years old, and for men, up to 65 from 60.

Almost half of those detained were rounded up in St. Petersburg, according to the OVD-Info.

Navalny, the anti-corruption activist who is Putin's most visible foe, had called for protests against the government's pension proposal before he was sentenced to 30 days in jail for organizing an unsanctioned January protest over a different issue.

The videos reportedly showed Navalny calling for demonstrations on Sunday to protest the rising retirement age in Russian Federation.

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Mr Navalny later said his imprisonment was created to derail the protests.

Some of them chanted "Russia will be free" and "Putin is a thief".

In the Moscow mayoral election, incumbent Mayor Sergei Sobyanin won with 70 percent of the votes.

Russian men have a life expectancy of 66 while for women it is 77, the World Health Organization says.

Mr Putin makes a point of never mentioning Mr Navalny by name but has suggested he is Washington's pick for the Russian presidency.

Navalny has likened Putin to an autocratic tsar who has clung to power for too long.

Four candidates from Russia's ruling United Russia party have failed to secure first-round victories in gubernatorial elections over the weekend and will now face their respective challengers in a runoff.

He said the protests had nothing to do with the elections and highlighted that Google took down the ads in various regions, even if they didn't have elections scheduled for Sunday.

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