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Thousands of Russians protest against Putin's pension age increase

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A man shouts slogans during a protest against a proposed increase of the retirement age in Moscow

A Russian rights group says more than 1,000 people were detained at anti-government protests across the country on Sunday.

Thousands protested against the pension reform on September 9 at rallies in 80 Russian cities organized by opposition leader Alexei Navalny. The largest number was in St. Petersburg, Russia's second-largest city, where 354 demonstrators were held, OVD-Info reported. "We won't go." The meeting was not sanctioned by the authorities but only turned violent when part of the crowd tried to march on the Kremlin buildings.

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

It said most of the detentions - 354 - had been made in St Petersburg where authorities had initially authorised a rally before reversing the decision.

It is known that two criminal cases over the use of violence against police officers are initiated.

A government plan to increase the age for collecting state pensions brought protests across Russia's 11 time zones Sunday even though the opposition leader who called them was in jail.

As in previous rallies, numerous protesters were young, including minors, and pictures of the police manhandling teens went viral on social media.

Some of them chanted "Russia will be free" and "Putin is a thief" as riot police looked on and ordered them to disperse or face prosecution. An Associated Press journalist counted at least 30 people detained at that protest.

Pension reforms have caused widespread public anger, and Mr Navalny's supporters have planned rallies in more than 80 cities to capitalise on this. "I want to say this to older people: The young have to take the hit for us and come out because we don't".

The proposed reforms would gradually raise the retirement age for women to 60 and men to 65. Last month he offered some concessions, but he and government officials said the age hike is necessary because rising life expectancy in Russian Federation could exhaust pension resources if the eligibility age remains the same.

Sergei Sobyanin, the Kremlin-backed incumbent mayor who has run the capital since 2010, was expected to receive about 70 percent of the vote in the Moscow mayoral election.

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

The scale of the electoral setbacks for United Russia is "a unique situation", said Dmitry Orlov, a political analyst who's a member of the party's supreme council.

United Russia's candidates for governor in four regions, mostly in the country's east, were forced into runoffs after failing to win majorities in elections Sunday.

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