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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chernobyl Victims Demand Social Support

KIEV, Ukraine - Marking an international day of disabled people, about 10,000 Chernobyl victims protested in the capital Kiev Sunday demanding more government spending on social care and support.

The demonstrators, many of whom took part in the Chernobyl cleanup operations and suffered disabilities as a result, held a mass meeting in the city center and demanded more funding.

Chernobyl was site of world's worst nuclear accident on April 26, 1986, when the plant's reactor No. 4 exploded and caught fire, sending a radioactive cloud over much of Europe.

The disaster is believed to have eventually killed some 8,000 people, but hundreds of thousands more suffered from its after effects.

Currently, Chernobyl operates only one reactor, which has been the focus of disputes between international groups concerned about safety and energy-strapped Ukraine, which fears losing electricity.

President Leonid Kuchma has promised to close Chernobyl on Dec. 15.

?These people were liquidating the accident, these people were deactivating the exclusion zone, the sarcophagus (over reactor No. 4) was built with their hands,? said Yuriy Andreyev, president of Ukraine's Chernobyl Union which organized the demonstration.

Some disabled Afghan war veterans and other handicapped people also joined the protest.

?I have a pension like other people, but receive also a compensation for health loss,? said Heorhiy Shaposhnikov, 50, who took part in the clean-up. His face was swollen and looked unhealthy. ?I lost 90 percent of my health, who may restore it??

Earlier in November, victims of the Chernobyl nuclear accident and people who cleaned up after the disaster protested against government plans to cut their benefits in the budget for 2001.

More than 2.2 million of Ukraine's 50 million people are eligible for benefits stemming from the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear plant.