ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — Pensioners and veterans angered over the cutoff of welfare benefits clogged streets and paralyzed traffic in St. Petersburg, hometown to President Vladimir Putin, for a second day Sunday and the street demonstrations spread to other Russian cities.
Top government officials sought to shift the blame by accusing regional leaders of botching the management of new social programs, under which benefits such as free medicine and public transportation were replaced by a monthly government stipend.
Though St. Petersburg authorities promised to restore some benefits after 10,000 people jammed the center of Russia’s second-largest city on Saturday, demonstrators returned Sunday to rally on Nevsky Prospect, again snarling traffic in the center of the city.
Since the new social benefits program went into effect Jan. 1, protests have spread to several cities across Russia. Retirees were in the streets of Samara for a fifth day Sunday, and a rally in Stavropol drew up to 5,000 people.
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