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Retired Russian Officers Stage Symbolic Hunger Strike, Want Putin To Resign

ULYANOVSK, Russia -- Twelve retired military officers have launched a symbolic hunger strike in the western Russian city of Ulyanovsk for improved benefits, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

The military officers -- two of whom are women -- told RFE/RL that their hunger strike is merely a warning and will last just 24 hours. They are demanding increased pensions for retired military officers and the restoration of all benefits that have been cut recently.

They vowed to start a long-term hunger strike in November if their demands are not met.

The demonstrators said that as a result of reforms recently implemented by the Russian government, military pensioners have lost one of their most important benefits -- a 50 percent reduction in the cost of their utility payments.

The protesters pitched three tents in front of the Ulyanovsk Oblast administration building and picketed it. It was the fifth such rally by the retired military officers in the last six months.

The protesters also adopted a resolution demanding the resignation of Vladimir Putin's government and the leadership of Ulyanovsk Oblast, which is led by Sergei Morozov.

Protester Aleksandr Belyakov told RFE/RL that as a military officer he regrets that he and his colleagues had to start the hunger strike, as it is shameful for officers to resort to such actions. But he added that they had no other choice because calling for an armed protest would constitute "extremism."