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Russians Rally Against Social Bill

2 August 2004 -- Some 500 demonstrators gathered near the parliament building in Moscow today to protest against a bill that would strip away Soviet-style benefits such as free transportation and health care, replacing them with cash payments.

It was the second protest in days in the capital against the legislation, which has sparked discontent across Russia.

Government officials say the legislation will make aid more targeted to needed segments of the population.

However, protesters -- mostly elderly and poor people -- fear that the cash payments will not cover their expenses and will be eaten away by inflation.

Legislators are expected to give the bill a key second of three readings tomorrow.