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Kremlin says it's not planning to quell unrest with extra social spending

MOSCOW, Feb 9 (Reuters) - The Kremlin said on Tuesday it was not planning to announce a big social spending programme to try to subdue protests, though targeted efforts to help certain parts of Russia’s population were carried out on a rolling basis.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was responding to a Reuters report on Monday that quoted two government sources as saying Russian authorities were considering a new social spending package worth at least $6.7 billion to address discontent over falling living standards before an autumn election.

Peskov said there were no one-off social spending packages due to be announced in the near future and that the figure cited by the Reuters sources, of at least 500 billion roubles ($6.76 billion), was not accurate.

“First of all, there is no such goal (to reduce discontent), and secondly there are no one-off payments due to be announced soon,” Peskov told reporters.

“Additional funds are being distributed constantly - for doctors and for children, this is an ongoing process,” Peskov said. “There is no 500 billion roubles set aside.”

The government makes social payments on a regular basis, chiefly targeting low-income families and social workers.

Such payments typically increase before elections. Officials acknowledge the practice in private but do not publicly recognise any link between political manoeuvring and social spending.

Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in recent weeks to protest against the arrest and then jailing of Alexei Navalny, a prominent critic of President Vladimir Putin.

Some protesters say they are also venting frustration over declining living standards and the perceived gap between a small number of wealthy people and the rest of the population. (Reporting by Dmitry Antonov, Writing by Katya Golubkova, Editing by Andrew Osborn and Timothy Heritage)

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