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Chornobyl Veterans In Ukraine Clash With Police

Riot police block demonstrators demolishing a fence during a protest rally in front of the parliament headquarters in Kiyv earlier this month.
KYIV -- Some 500 veterans of the Chornobyl nuclear disaster cleanup have clashed with police in Kyiv, RFE/RL's Ukrainian and Russian services report.

The protesters picketed the Ukrainian government building demanding "full pensions" and a meeting with Prime Minister Mykola Azarov.

They wanted to meet with Azarov to urge him to annul the government's recent decision to cut by at least 80 percent the pensions paid to veterans of the 1986 nuclear disaster cleanup and of the Soviet-Afghan war.

When they were told that Azarov would not meet with them, the protesters attempted to force their way into the building. Police and security forces blocked them, which caused clashes. One of the protesters was injured and hospitalized with a heart attack.

The protesters told journalists they were all seriously ill as a result of exposure to radiation during the Chornobyl cleanup in 1986, and they have nothing to lose. They said they were ready to "stop this lawlessness at all costs."

Some 100 Chornobyl veterans staged a similar protest in the western city of Lviv.

On November 15, three people were taken to the hospital with health problems in the eastern city of Donetsk after some 400 Chornobyl veterans occupied a meeting room in the Donetsk pension-fund building the previous day to demand their pensions remain at the current level.

Some 60 veterans are currently on hunger strike in Donetsk to protest the planned cuts to their pensions.

The government decided in September to cut the pensions of Chornobyl cleanup and Afghan war veterans as well as for elderly people who used to receive additional financial allowances for either having fought or worked as children during World War II.

That decision triggered protests across Ukraine.

Read in Ukrainian here and her and in Russian here