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Russian women protest new maternity benefits payment system

Russian Couple with Newborn InfantMOSCOW, January 18 (RIA Novosti) - Women marched in cities across Russia on Tuesday in protest at a new system of maternity benefits leave payments.

Russia's State Duma accepted in 2010 several amendments to the existing legislation. According to the new rules, which came into force on January 1, maternity benefit rates will now be based on salaries for two work years before taking maternity leave, rather than one year as previously.

Opponents of the new system say this is likely to result in lower maternity leave payments.

Dozens of pregnant women, new mothers and human rights activists held rallies against the new system in St. Petersburg, the Urals city of Perm, and the western Siberian city of Novosibirsk.

"We all know that recent years were years of economic crisis, especially 2009, the peak of the downturn, when many women had no work or worked episodically or their salaries were cut short," one of the organizers of the protest in Novosibirsk, Vladimir Alexeytsev, said.

President Dmitry Medvedev has also called for a reconsideration of the amendments to allow women to decide what work period their benefits will be based on.

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