Putin on the Spot

SERGEI GUNEYEV FOR TIME

BESIEGED: Putin is facing rare public criticism

This is not the way Vladimir Putin wanted 2005 to begin. Since Jan. 10, a sea of angry pensioners has filled the streets of cities across the country to protest cuts in their social benefits: housing and prescription-drug subsidies, and free public transport. Military officers, who have also lost benefits, are angry too. Faced with the most widespread demonstrations of his presidency, Putin tried to blame his cabinet for botching the reforms, then ordered pensions raised. But pensioners are threatening bigger protests in February when a second wave of reductions kicks in. And this week, Putin is expecting a visit from...

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