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Russian Prisoners' Relatives Start Hunger Strike

ULYANOVSK, Russia -- About a dozen residents of the western Russian city of Ulyanovsk have started a hunger strike to protest what they call unfair prison terms given to their relatives, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.
The hunger strikers set up several tents in the city center and said they want to meet with President Dmitry Medvedev, who is due to visit Ulyanovsk on September 26.
The relatives of several prisoners in Ulyanovsk sent a letter to Medvedev urging him to launch an investigation into the activities of the regional investigative committee, prosecutor's office, and judges.
Protest organizer Marina Savina told RFE/RL she understands that "the president will come and say that he cannot interfere in the court's decisions, but he and other [top officials] always say that young people should not be jailed. Why should the Ulyanovsk region be an exception? Are we on another planet?"
The strikers demand the revision of the cases brought against their relatives and their immediate release. They also say the regional prosecutor, the chief of the regional investigative committee, and the chairman of the Ulyanovsk Oblast court should resign.
Meanwhile, the regional prosecutor's office and investigative committee issued a joint statement on September 23 saying the hunger strike is a means of "exerting pressure" on the law enforcement and judicial system in the region.
They warned that "no protest actions can help criminals avoid accountability."
The hunger strikers say more protesters will join them in the coming days.

Read more in Russian here