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Chornobyl Veterans Start Hunger Strike In Russian City

An abandoned home in the town of Chornobyl

An abandoned home in the town of Chornobyl

TOGLIATTI, Russia -- Eight activists of a Chornobyl veterans group have begun a hunger strike in the Russian city of Togliatti demanding benefit payments, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Nikolai Petrukhin, the leader of the Samara Regional Union of Chornobyl Veterans in Togliatti, told RFE/RL that the strikers want the local government to cover 50 percent of their housing utility bills.

Russian law gives all veterans of the Chornobyl nuclear accident in 1986 the right to pay only 50 percent of their utility bills.

The veterans in Togliatti say the government refuses to comply with that regulation and they demand that Health and Social Development Minister Tatyana Golikova come to Togliatti to force local officials to comply with the law.

Thousands of people from throughout the Soviet Union took part in the cleanup of radioactive waste at Chornobyl.

An unknown number of them died and thousands of others have reported health problems they say is a result of radiation they received doing that work.