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Russian Protesters Lash Out At Benefits Reform --> (file photo) 30 January 2005 -- Antigovernment demonstrations took place in several Russian cities yesterday.

The largest was in St. Petersburg, where some 5,000 people marched in protest against a benefits-reform law that took effect this month. The law strips pensioners of many social benefits in return for a cash payment that elderly Russians say is insufficient.

Ekho Moskvy radio reported that about 4,000 people protested in Novgorod, a small city in northwestern Russia.

Demonstrators also blocked a main street in Saransk, a regional capital east of Moscow. And the news agency ITAR-TASS reported that about 400 people protested against the benefits law in Astrakhan, on the Caspian Sea.

Several similar protests against the benefits law were also held in Moscow.