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Ukrainian Pensioners Attack Donetsk Governor's Office


Elderly protesters rally with pitchforks and spades outside the offices of the regional governor in Donetsk.

Elderly protesters rally with pitchforks and spades outside the offices of the regional governor in Donetsk.

DONETSK, Ukraine -- Pensioners in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk have attacked and attempted to occupy the office of the regional governor, RFE/RL's Ukrainian and Russian services report.

Some 200 pensioners, many of them armed with spades or pitchforks, forced their way into the building on November 28 but were stopped by dozens of police. They are demanding that the Ukrainian government resign.

Protest leader Dmytro Verzylov, who is a member of the Donetsk Lenin district council, told RFE/RL "we demand protection of the rights of the children of World War II whose 30 percent pension increase has been slashed, and of veterans of the Chornobyl cleanup and the Afghan war."

The pensioners decided to storm the governor's office on November 28 after spending the previous night under the open sky because plainclothes police had forcibly dismantled their large tent in front of the Donetsk pension-fund building.

One protester, retired miner Hennadiy Konoplyov, 70, reportedly died of a heart attack he suffered when the tent was dismantled. Konoplyov was an active member of the opposition Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party.

"Last night police -- like a gang of fascists -- attacked the protesters' tent and killed a man. They are just torturing their own people," Verzylov said.

A Ukrainian leader of the Chornobyl nuclear disaster cleanup, Mykola Honcharov, told RFE/RL that the protesters will continue their hunger strike without the tent. He said President Viktor Yanukovych is responsible for the situation in general and for the death of his colleague, Konoplyov.

Meanwhile, Yanukovych's press service said on November 28 that the president has urged Prosecutor-General Viktor Pshyonka "to fully investigate the circumstances of Hennadiy Konoplyov's death."

Dozens of protesters have been on strike since November 15, demanding "full pensions" from the government.

The 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 has triggered protests across Ukraine.

Read more in Ukrainian here

Read more in Russian here


WATCH: Ukrainian protesters comtinue their outdoor protest despite the events of November 28, when police dismantled their temporary shelter and one demonstrator died of a heart attack (IN RUSSIAN):
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