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Russian Hunger Strike Leader Cleared Of Charges

RUBTSOVSK, Russia -- The leader of a Russian hunger strike committee charged with organizing illegal protests has had the criminal case against him dismissed, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

A city court in the central city of Rubtsovsk, in Altai Krai, cleared Sergei Yurchenko of charges he organized unsanctioned mass protests at the city's tractor-building plant. Yurchenko is also the head of Altai Krai's Communist Party branch.

Meanwhile, three more hunger strikers at the factory were hospitalized on May 17. Six of the 73 hunger strikers are currently in hospital. The hunger strike, which began on May 15, is being held by protesters to demand payment of their overdue salaries.

Factory workers said the company owes them a total of some $3.3 million. The plant is closed due to low demand.

Altai Krai Deputy Governor Vitaly Ryapolov told journalists that the local prosecutor's office is investigating the case and will try to get the factory owner to pay workers their back wages.

Last month, the factor workers sent a videotape to President Dmitry Medvedev urging him to get involved in the situation on their behalf.