Supporters of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny are staging protests across Russia Sunday over plans to increase the nation's pension age, as Russians go to the polls for regional elections.
Navalny was scheduled to appear at the demonstration in Moscow Sunday, but last month he was convicted of breaking protests laws and was jailed for for 30 days. His detention, Navalny says, was designed to wreck his plans for the nationwide rallies against raising the age when workers can start receiving their pensions.
Navalny's supporters, however, went forward with the plans for the protests. The demonstrations have not been sanctioned by the government.
The OVD-Info organization that monitors political repression, reported that 153 protesters had been arrested across the country, with rallies in as many as 80 cities.
The protests take place as regional elections are being held in Russia and present a challenge to authorities hoping for a high turnout to the polls.
Proposed changes to Russia's pension plan would raise the retirement age for men from 60 to 65 and from 55 to 60 for women beginning in 2019. Putin says the move is overdue, risking inflation and increasing poverty. But the changes are deeply unpopular, leading Putin's approval ratings to drop roughly 15 percent, according to Reuters.
"For 18 years, [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and his government have stolen from the budget and squandered it on meaningless projects. Now the money's run out and we have to steal from pensioners to make ends meet," Navalny's supporters wrote on social media.
Navalny has served a number of weeks-long jail terms in recent years for organizing protests. He also organized massive street protests to coincide with Putin's 2012 re-election, and was barred from the presidential ballot in March because of a conviction on financial crimes, charges he contends were fabricated.