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Chernobyl disaster workers continue rally near Ukraine’s government building

RIA Novosti

15:04 03/11/2011 KIEV, November 3 (RIA Novosti) - Former Chernobyl workers and human rights activists in Ukraine, protesting against planned social benefit cuts, have gathered near the government building, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov.

Hundreds of protesters are chanting: “Down with Azarov!” and “Down with power!” The protesters are moving from the Supreme Rada’s (parliament) vicinity where they had crashed through the metal cordon surrounding the parliament but were stopped short by police from entering the building.

On Tuesday, some 1,000 former Chernobyl disaster clean-up crew members, angered with the planned cuts of social benefits, stormed the Supreme Rada building.

The anger sparked after the Ukrainian parliament announced its plans to cut social benefits for some 10 million citizens, including those involved in the clean-up operation following the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

Soon after the beginning of Tuesday’s rally, several opposition MPs emerged from the parliament building to address the protesters. They told the demonstrators that the Supreme Rada had decided to postpone the bill’s second reading.

According to the rally participants, an agreement was reached that a delegation of former Chernobyl disaster personnel would enter the building and present their demands to the MPs.

The proposal was rejected by part of the protesters who maintain that talks should take place outside the parliament.

Organizers said they had no plans to end the rally, and protests would continue near the government building, where ministers would convene for an extended session. Veterans of the Soviet war in Afghanistan, also affected by the unpopular measures, said they would join the protest on Thursday.

The protests have also expanded to another Ukrainian city, Donetsk. More than 1,500 members of various political parties are staging the rally, demanding the resignation of the government.

People are hanging posters that read “1937 is back. Repressions continue” and “We don’t need power that breaches the Constitution and Ukrainian laws.”

The protesters decided to send a telegram to President Viktor Yanukovych.

More than 500,000 workers have been involved in relief operations following the explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in April 1986, which resulted in highly radioactive fallout in the atmosphere over an extensive area. A 30-kilometer (19-mile) exclusion zone was introduced following the accident.

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