Hundreds protest in Russia against job losses
Hundreds of people protested in Russian cities on Saturday in demonstrations against the wave of job losses sweeping the country in the wake of the economic crisis.SAINT PETERSBURG - Around 500 people turned out for a demonstration in Russia's northern city of Saint Petersburg, where activists have also been angered by an attack last week on a local trade union leader, an AFP correspondent and police said.
A smaller number of around 100 people staged a similar protest in Moscow, an AFP correspondent reported while several dozen workers protested in the car-producing city of Togliatti, according to the Moscow Echo radio
The protests were spearheaded by employees in the car industry but also joined by independent trade unions expressing concern over the treatment of workers in the economic crisis.
The Saint Petersburg protestors chanted slogans like "workers should not pay for the crisis" and "stop pursuing labour activists" at their demonstration by a statue of Lenin outside the former capital's Finland station.
"Our salvation is in our hands. We need to unify our forces," said Alexander Vinogradov, the leader of the protest movement.
Last weekend the trade union leader of General Motors' new Saint Petersburg factory, Yevgeny Ivanov, said he had been attacked by two unidentified assailants as he left his apartment.
"The attacks on trade unionists show that we comprise a danger for someone," said Ivanov.
Under a heavy snowfall in Moscow, protesting workers chanted "work, pay freedom" and "let justice return to Russia" in front of a monument to the victims of the 1905 revolution.
"The Russian auto industry is dying. It's not needed any more. People are using the crisis to get rid of industry," said a factory worker called Eduard.
"Officially the government has declared its support for industry but it is not giving enough, it is only giving to the banks and to the oligarchs," he said.
Meanwhile in the far eastern city of Khabarovsk around 200 people attended a rally organised by the Communist Party protesting against the rise in prices in Russia, the Interfax news agency reported.
The Russian economic crisis has hit the Russian auto industry hard with several Russian and Western firms closing their production lines for a month over the New Year period to cope with the slowdown in demand.
Officials have said Russia's jobless total will rise by over half a million in 2009.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has taken a frontline role in fighting the economic crisis, warning that the coming year will be tough but vowing the government would do everything to help the people.
Police have violently dispersed previous rallies -- most notably in the far eastern city of Vladivostok -- but Saturday's demonstrations all appeared to pass off peacefully.
Protests over the economy were highly unusual over the last half decade as Russia enjoyed a boom in growth but have become relatively frequent since the crisis struck.