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ROSTOV-NA-DONU, Russia -- Dozens of veterans of the 1979-1989 Soviet war in Afghanistan and more recent fighting in the North Caucasus rallied in southwestern Russia to demand they receive state housing and other social allowances, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Activists from the nongovernmental organization Don Veterans of Military Operations gathered near the entrance to the central park in Rostov-na-Donu on February 11.

The protesters, among whom were veterans of the Afghan war and recent Russian military operations in Chechnya and other North Caucasus republics, told RFE/RL they want the local government to provide them with decent housing.

Several veterans said they have been waiting many years for state-provided housing that they are legally entitled to because of their veteran status. They added that they want other social privileges restored, namely free public transportation and reductions on their utility bills -- perks that were abolished several years ago.

Georgy Sadovich, one of the leaders of the veterans NGO, told RFE/RL that in May the local government made a decision to provide veterans of military operations with land for building houses.

But Sadovich said nothing has been done since then, although the deadlines for the implementation of that decision expired last year.

Ten of the protesters announced the start of a hunger strike. They said more veterans will join them in the coming days and they will maintain the strike until their demands are fully met.

Read more in Russian here