KYIV -- Twelve of the some 30 hunger strikers in Kyiv protesting social benefits cuts for Chornobyl cleanup veterans have switched to a so-called "dry hunger strike," RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reports.
The hunger strikers announced on December 8 that they would stop drinking liquids under a large sign saying "We've Started A Dry Hunger Strike!" while they emptied liquids from buckets and bottles.
But several hours after the dry hunger strike began, four people said they were rejoining the other hunger strikers who do drink water and tea. The remaining eight added that they also would consider ending the dry hunger strike on December 9.
The number of hunger strikers in front of the Ukrainian government building has changed in recent days as more protesters have joined the demonstration and other strikers have been hospitalized due to poor health.
A female hunger striker was hospitalized on December 8 after she felt unwell and medical personnel monitoring the protest gave her first aid.
Veterans of cleanup operations following the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear disaster and Afghan war veterans have been rallying in Kyiv and several other Ukrainian cities for more than a month.
The protesters started the hunger strike after 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 legal amendments that reduce pensions and social allowances.
They also demanded a moratorium on further amendments to laws related to such 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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