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Russians Protest 'Illegal' Utility Fees In Siberian Town

RUBTSOVSK, Russia -- Some 2,000 people have attended a demonstration in the southeastern Russian city of Rubtsovsk against the growing number of utility fees they are being charged, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

The protesters also accused local utility providers of carrying out illegal activity.

Owners of apartments say that for almost one year they have been receiving additional letters from the utility providers urging them to pay extra fees.

The protesters say this contradicts Russia's Common Living Code.

They say that, in general, every family each month pays up to 1,000 rubles ($36) more in utilities than they have to.

In one year, Rubtsovsk residents say they have paid an additional 70 million rubles (almost $2.5 million) to local utility providers for undisclosed "necessities."

Rubtsovsk's Prosecutor-General's Office ruled earlier this year that the additional charges were illegal, but the protesters say they continue to be charged.

The chairman of the Communist Party's committee in Rubtsovsk, Sergei Yurchenko, told RFE/RL that the protesters sent a letter to President Dmitry Medvedev urging him to intervene in the issue and make local utility heads accountable for "violating Russia's Common Living Code."

The protesters said they are ready to join a campaign of civil disobedience in the event that their demands are not met.

Hundreds of protesters joined the ranks of the so-called "People's Protest" movement on June 21, which was launched by the Communist Party.

Rubtovsk, a city of some 147,000 people, is in the Altai Krai district and near the border with Kazakhstan. It is the birthplace of Raisa Gorbacheva, the late wife of former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.

Read more in Russian here