More than 180,000 Russians have signed a petition calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev after his remarks about teachers' pay sparked outrage earlier this week.
The petition, posted on the website Change.org, had gathered 180,000 signatures by midday on August 5 and appeared to be accumulating supporters rapidly.
The petition came after Medvedev on August 2 advised a low-paid teacher from the impoverished Daghestan region to go into business if he wants to make money, in comments that were widely seen as out-of-touch and uncaring.
"The cabinet should be led by a person who is competent, educated, and cares about the country," wrote the petition's author, Aleksandr Li. "We are seeing the opposite right now."
The petition is addressed to Russian President Vladimir Putin, but Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had no comment.
Medvedev, when asked why teachers are paid half as much as police officers, retorted that "there's no need to compare. The issue is what you choose in life."
Medvedev noted that people in business make a lot more money and teaching is "a calling," not a job for those seeking to make a fortune. Moreover, he said a "young, energetic teacher" can always do odd jobs to supplement his income.
Medvedev lectured on the law faculty of St. Petersburg State University in the 1990s and cited himself as an example of a teacher who succeeded in making a living.
"I just gave a lot of lectures, held seminars," he said. "Overall, I was able to make ends meet."
Medvedev's approval ratings have been consistently lower than Putin's. Analysts say his unpopularity as the leader in charge of the economy may have deflected blame for Russia's falling living standards from Putin himself.
Official statistics show the average monthly salary in Russia is around 37,000 rubles ($566). Teachers make somewhat less than that on average, and in Daghestan, they earn about half that rate, Kommersant daily reported.
"The prime minister's impressions are completely understandable," said a sarcastic editorial in the tabloid Moskovsky Komsomolets. "We all know very well of government officials who successfully manage to combine their main job with business, including big business."
Medvedev previously sparked public outrage in May when he told a group of seniors seeking bigger pensions: "There's no money, but hang in there," in a phrase that has since gone viral.
With reporting by AP and AFP