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Tens Of Thousands Protest In Russia Over Rising Utilities Fees

A pensioner protests against rising utility prices in March 2006 (file photo) (epa) April 8, 2006 -- Tens of thousands of demonstrators rallied across Russia today to protest housing reforms that have seen utilities and rent fees rise.

Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov claimed up to three million people took part in the protest action. The Interior Ministry estimated the number of protesters at 74,000.

Russian media report demonstrations in some 250 cities and towns.

Addressing protesters near the Kremlin, Zyuganov urged the government to use its significant oil revenues to pay for the long-needed overhaul of aging utilities and apartment buildings.

Authorities say that the reforms and price hikes decided last year will help create a more efficient housing system. But protesters today complained that the quality of maintenance services is not increasing in line with the rise in rates.

(, RIA Novosti, ITAR-TASS, AP)

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