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Russian protests target time zones

By the CNN Wire Staff
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has proposed time zone reforms
  • Protesters say time zone changes waste energy and negatively affect the elderly
  • Chanting "give us our time back," they demand a nationwide referendum on the issue
  • Medvedev says the changes help resolve transportation and communication issues

Moscow (CNN) -- Chanting "give us our time back," thousands of people in eastern Russia Saturday protested proposed changes to the country's time zones, state media reported.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has proposed time zone reforms that would further cut the time difference between the region and Moscow, the state-run RIA-Novosti news agency reported.

Already, similar reforms implemented earlier this year have led to dark winter skies in the middle of the day in the region, the news agency said.

More than 3,000 protesters flocked to the central square in the city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, RIA-Novosti said.

As a result of the changes, the consumption of electric energy already has increased in schools and other institutions, with many extracurricular groups shut down, protesters told RIA-Novosti. Older people are affected particularly negatively by the change, they argued, demanding a nationwide referendum to resolve the issue.

In March, Russia -- the world's largest country by land mass -- cut the number of time zones in the country from 11 to 9.

"The less fractional division of the country will enable us to resolve a number of transport and communications issues, will increase its manageability and strengthen the position of Russia as an important chain in the world's global infrastructure," Medvedev said at a special Kremlin meeting devoted to the issues of time change.

As part of the reform, five Russian regions -- two in European Russia and three in Siberia -- did not join the rest of the country in moving the clock one hour forward to daylight saving time, thus coming a little closer to Moscow.

Some local governments of the regions where the time zone change will take place had lobbied for the measure for years and overwhelmingly supported the proposed federal initiative.

In his 2009 State of the Nation address, Medvedev proposed an even more radical reform. He suggested not only cutting the number of time zones in Russia, but also abolishing the current switch to daylight saving time, which the country has been doing since 1981.

Throughout this year, government officials and scientists will closely examine the consequences of the time reform in the five Russian regions, and a further reduction of time zones in Russia might take place in future if the experiment proves positive, according to Medvedev.

The president has also called upon experts to finalize their studies on the possible effects of abolishing the daylight saving time in Russia by February 2011.

CNN's Mila Sanina and Maxim Tkachenko contributed to this report.