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Russians began voting in regional elections yesterday that Kremlin-loyal candidates are set to dominate, as police detained dozens of supporters of a jailed opposition leader who called for protests over pension reforms.

Widespread anger over pension reform across Russian Federation, where scores were detained on Sunday in mass protests against planned increases to the pension age.

A Russian political rights organization reports at least 291 people were arrested in an attempt to stifle protests on Sunday.

The issue has galvanized citizens and initially hurt the popularity of President Vladimir Putin, who in August sought to quell the discontent by suggesting amendments to dilute the proposal.

The results had some "rough edges" and they will be dealt with, Putin said during a State Council meeting on Monday in Vladivostok. They are the most unpopular government measure since a 2005 move to scrap Soviet-era benefits, which led to nationwide pensioner protests.

Police arrested 1,018 people, mainly in Russia's second largest city Saint Petersburg and the Urals city of Yekaterinburg, independent monitor OVD-info said.

Navalny, barred from state TV and prevented from running against Putin for president earlier this year, hopes to tap into public anger over the reform.

Some of them chanted "Russia will be free" and "Putin is a thief" as riot police looked on and ordered them to disperse or face prosecution. Navalny said the move was created to derail the protests.

According to various polls, about 90 percent of Russians oppose the plan to raise the retirement age, and a recent poll by the Levada Center polling agency found that more than 50 percent of Russians say they would participate in protests against it. "I want to say this to older people: The young have to take the hit for us and come out because we don't".

The plan calls for the pension age to be raised five years - to 65 for men and 60 for women.

But Putin and government officials say the age hike is necessary because rising life expectancy in Russian Federation could exhaust pension resources if the eligibility age remains the same.

Ahead of the vote a Moscow court jailed Navalny for 30 days, just a couple weeks before he planned to stage a rally against a deeply controversial pension reform on election day.

Moscow authorities estimated that around 2,000 people went on several organized marches through the city center, which were scheduled to coincide with mayoral elections in the capital, also taking place on Sunday.

United Russia remained the dominant force in the national parliament in the last election in 2016.


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