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Supporters of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny protested across Russian Federation against planned increases to the pension age on Sunday, a challenge to the authorities who are holding regional elections on the same day.

A Reuters reporter saw at least three people being detained. He says it was an attempt to thwart protests across dozens of Russian cities, including Moscow and St Petersburg.

Footage of the protests, which were held in more than 80 towns and cities, showed the police sometimes using force to disperse rallies, beating participants with batons and dragging them away. Police arrested minors and elderly people.

The crackdown was heaviest in Russia's second largest city, St. Petersburg, according to independent local media and OVD-Info, a non-profit that monitors detentions.

The proposal, which would raise the retirement age from 60 to 65 for men and 55 to 60 for women, is highly unpopular in Russian Federation, boasting a disapproval rating of roughly 80 percent.

"The authorities are not listening to people and that means it's time to take to the streets", Navalny's team said in a pre-protest statement.

Approval ratings for Putin, Medvedev, and the ruling United Russia party have fallen noticeably since the proposed pension-age hike was passed in its first reading in the lower house of parliament in July.

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Ella Pamfilova, the head of the Central Election Commission, said it was obvious the planned pension changes had prompted voters to register their discontent at the ballot box, something she said was a sign of genuine political competition.

In several Moscow polling stations there were scuffles between observers and police volunteers, OVD-info reported. They are the most unpopular government measure since a 2005 move to scrap Soviet-era benefits, which led to nationwide pensioner protests.

United Russia's candidates for governor in four regions, mostly in the country's east, were forced into runoffs after failing to win majorities in elections Sunday.

But Mr 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. A lawyer for Navalny's Anti-Corruption Fund was arrested in Moscow before the rally there.

Incumbent Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin was re-elected with 70% of the vote, state-controlled news agency TASS reported.

Olga Sokolova, a 52-year-old factory worker, said she was "dumbfounded" when the proposal came because she had hoped to retire from her physically taxing job at 55. The authorities have not registered his Russian Federation of the Future Party.


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