New protest against price hike in Russia

MOSCOW: More than 1,500 people took to the streets Sunday in Russia's north to protest living costs.

The protest is the first of a new series of challenges to the Kremlin in coming weeks, organisers said.

Despite freezing temperatures, protesters gathered in the port of Arkhangelsk to decry increasing prices.

Some even called for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to step down, said a member of an opposition movement that helped organize the protest.

"People came out into the streets in solidarity with other cities, where protest action took and is taking place, and many speakers say that the time has come to take to the streets and seek the truth from the authorities," Ilya Yashin, a member of the Solidarnost (Solidarity) opposition movement, said on Echo of Moscow Radio.

Around fifteen independent trade unions joined the protesters in the city's main square, said the Communist party, which organized the event.

An Arkhangelsk police officer said that between 450 and 500 people turned up for the hour-long protest.

Such protests are rare in Russia. The Kremlin, which has shown little tolerance for demonstrations since the start of the economic crisis more than a year ago, was stunned when around 10,000 people turned up for a rally in Russia's western exclave of Kaliningrad in January.

The fractured opposition hopes to stage a series of protests across Russia in the coming weeks.