Russians have staged demonstrations across the country to protest government plans to raise the eligibility age for retirement pensions by five years.
Thousands attended a Moscow demonstration organized by the Communist Party and other leftist groups on September 22. Police cited by Interfax put the crowd at 3,000. Organizers said as many as 20,000 had turned out.
Protests were also held in numerous other cities across Russia's 11 time zones. Most of them were sanctioned by the authorities.
In the city of Saratov, 800 kilometers southeast of Moscow, around 500 people protested the planned pension-age hike in a demonstration organized by the Communist Party.
Protesters demanded the removal of President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev from their posts and marched to the headquarters of the regional government, where they demanded a meeting with Saratov Governor Valery Radayev of the ruling United Russia party.
The demonstrators, whose detour to the governor's office had not been authorized by authorities under laws on public gatherings, called Radayev a "coward" after failing to secure a meeting with him and subsequently dispersed.
Unauthorized pension protests earlier this month organized by opposition leader Aleksei Navalny led to the detention of more than 1,000 people across Russia.
The government's plan to lift the retirement age to 65 for men and 60 for women has sparked controversy.
Older Russians worry they won't live long enough to collect benefits. Younger Russians fear keeping people in work for longer could diminish their chances of finding a job.
Opinion polls have shown Putin's popularity dip since the plan was unveiled earlier this year.
Putin responded to public discontent by offering some concessions, but argued that the hike is necessary.
He has insisted that raising the retirement age for men and women was essential because Russia’s working-age population is shrinking.
Putin added that the reforms had been delayed for years and risked causing inflation and increasing poverty.
Lawmakers are currently preparing the draft legislation for a crucial second reading in Russia’s lower house of parliament.