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Chornobyl Veterans In Ukraine Start Hunger Strike


The decision to cut benefits for Chornobyl veterans has sparked protests across Ukraine.

The decision to cut benefits for Chornobyl veterans has sparked protests across Ukraine.

DONETSK, Ukraine -- More than 40 veterans of the Chornobyl cleanup have gone on hunger strike in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk to protest planned pension cuts, RFE/RL's Ukrainian and Russian services report.

They are demanding "full pensions" from the Ukrainian government and a meeting with Prime Minister Mykola Azarov.

Some 400 Chornobyl veterans occupied a meeting room in the Donetsk pension fund building on November 14 and are still there.

They say they will not leave until the government annuls its recent decision to cut by at least 80 percent the pensions paid to veterans of the 1986 nuclear disaster cleanup and of the Soviet-Afghan war.

Donetsk Oblast leaders, the oblast prosecutor, and police officials held talks with the protesters, but did not reach any agreement.

Volodymyr Petrenko from the NGO Chornobyl-Unity told RFE/RL the police will not allow anyone inside the pension fund building and have threatened to launch criminal cases against the protest organizers.

RFE/RL reports from the scene that some 270 men and women who are not only veterans of Chornobyl, but also veterans of the war in Afghanistan and "children of World War II," started setting up tents near the pension fund building, saying that they are ready to join the hunger strike.

The Ukrainian government decided in September to cut the pensions of Chornobyl cleanup and Afghan war veterans and of elderly people who used to receive additional financial allowances for either having fought or worked as children during World War II.

That decision triggered protests across Ukraine.

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