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Scores of Chornobyl veterans stages a sit-in protests in Donetsk late last year.
DONETSK, Ukraine -- Some 200 veterans of the Chornobyl nuclear disaster clean-up have rallied in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk to demand that they receive full pension payments, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reports.

The protesters gathered in front of the Donetsk Oblast Pension Fund offices.

Protest organizer and Chornobyl veteran Volodymyr Derkach told RFE/RL that the protesters have two demands.

The first is that all overdue pensions for veterans be paid in full in accordance with court rulings.

The second is for an extraordinary session of the Donetsk Oblast Council with Premier Mykola Azarov to be held in order to find out why some veterans receive full pensions and others get less.

The Ukrainian government decided in September to cut the pensions of Chornobyl clean-up workers and Afghan war veterans as well as elderly people who receive compensation for either having fought or worked as children during World War II.

The decision has triggered protests in Kyiv and in other cities across Ukraine. The Donetsk Chornobyl veterans protested from November 15 to December 11.

Retired miner Hennadiy Konoplyov, 70, died of a heart attack on November 27 in Donetsk while police forcibly removed a large tent used by Chornobyl veterans on a hunger strike.

The protesters in Donetsk agreed to end their protest on December 11 after the regional government promised to pay the veterans 1 million hryvnyas ($123,000) in unpaid pensions.

Donetsk is President Viktor Yanukovych's hometown.

Read more in Ukrainian here
The tents erected by protesters near where Yulia Tymoshenko is incarcerated in Kharkiv have mysteriously disappeared.
KHARKIV, Ukraine -- Police in eastern Ukraine have launched an investigation into the alleged theft of tents owned by supporters of jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reports.

The Kharkiv Oblast police told journalists on January 12 that a probe was launched into the disappearance of private tents used by activists protesting Tymoshenko's imprisonment starting on January 6.

The tents were forcibly taken down by order of Kharkiv officials on January 10.

Anatoliy Babichev, the leader of Tymoshenko's Fatherland party branch in Kharkiv's Chervonozavod district, said he had asked police to help find the tents, which had stood near the Kachaniv labor camp outside of Kharkiv where Tymoshenko is being held.

A Kharkiv court ruled on January 6 that the tents cannot be set up near the labor camp and must be taken down.

The activists refused to do so and on January 10, city sanitation workers forcibly dismantled the tents, loaded them onto a truck, and drove away.

Babichev said he has not seen his tents since then and therefore had to refer to police for help.

The Kharkiv City Council stated on its website on January 10 that the tents were removed "legally and in accordance with the court decision."

The following day, Kharkiv authorities fenced off the place where the tents had been set up and the protest staged.

Maintenance workers said they were carrying necessary repairs to the sewage system.

The Kharkiv City Council told journalists on January 11 that the repair work was necessitated by an accident in the sewage system near the labor camp.

Tymoshenko, 51, was jailed in October for seven years for exceeding her authority in brokering a 2009 gas deal with Russia.

She served as prime minister in 2005 and from 2007 to 2010.

Tymoshenko unsuccessfully ran for president against incumbent Viktor Yanukovych in 2010. She and her supporters say the case against her is politically motivated.

Tymoshenko's husband, Oleksandr Tymoshenko, was granted political asylum in the Czech Republic last week.

He told RFE/RL in Prague on January 9 that he was forced to seek asylum because of authoritarian rule in Ukraine. He added that the Ukrainian authorities are seeking to "physically destroy" his wife.

Read more in Ukrainian here

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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