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Ukrainian Hunger Strikers Vow To Intensify Protest

Veterans of the Chornobyl disaster cleanup continue their hunger strike in Kyiv on December 7.
Veterans of the Chornobyl disaster cleanup continue their hunger strike in Kyiv on December 7.
KYIV -- Organizers of a hunger strike in Ukraine by veterans of the post-Chornobyl nuclear disaster cleanup say the strike has grown and that the protesters will begin refusing to drink liquids, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reports.

The hunger strike in Kyiv has grown from some 19 people to 40 in recent days despite eight people ending the strike due to poor health, RFE/RL reports. The strikers, who are from various parts of Ukraine, are holding their protest in front of the Ukrainian government building in Kyiv.

Mykola Kostev, a protest organizer from the Luhansk region, told RFE/RL that the strikers are currently drinking tea and water but will begin a "dry" hunger strike on December 8.

The veterans of the cleanup after the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear disaster and Afghan war veterans have been rallying in Kyiv and Ukraine's other cities for more than a month.

A large demonstration was held in Kyiv on November 29, when some 3,000 protesters rallied at the government building to demand the annulment of all legislative amendments scaling back pensions and social allowances. They also demanded a moratorium on further amendments to laws related to social programs.

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

The decision has triggered protests across Ukraine.

On December 6, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said in his
hometown of Yenakiyevo that the Chornobyl veterans' problems should be "studied transparently and fairly." He said "I'm against the cuts in [social] benefits [for Chornobyl and Afghan war veterans]," but added that the benefits can be preserved only "if economic growth is present."

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