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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ukraine Scraps Veterans' Pension Cuts

APVeterans rallying outside parliament in Kiev on Tuesday. They praised lawmakers' decision to cancel a law reducing their pensions.
KIEV -- Ukrainian lawmakers on Tuesday staved off what might have been the first big protest of Viktor Yushchenko's presidency by canceling a law that reduced pensions for retired Soviet-era military officers.

Lawmakers used their first meeting of the new parliamentary session to rescind the old law, under which soldiers who retired before 1992 received only half of a bonus for long service that they had previously received. The move came after Acting Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko -- whose nomination for the country's No. 2 job is expected to be confirmed by the Verkhovna Rada on Thursday -- ordered the Finance Ministry to find the money to make the payments more equitable.

It remained unclear, however, where the extra money would be found or exactly how much would be needed. Ukraine's 2005 budget already anticipates a deficit, and a series of populist measures adopted during last year's presidential election campaign have added to the cash shortage.

Still, some 300 retired military personnel huddled together outside parliament's gates cheered the Rada's decision. Many carried the Communist Party's red, hammer-and-sickle flags and banners from the Ukrainian Union of Soviet Officers.

"It's only fair, and they had promised us," said Vasiliy Cherbatov, 76, who clutched an orange Yushchenko campaign handkerchief in his pocket.

"They sent us all over the world, and we had to see the most horrible events. How could they just throw us aside now?"

A veteran with 36 years service, Cherbatov's monthly pension is 290 hryvnas ($54). He said the law restricting service bonuses cost some veterans 100 hryvnas a month or more.

"It's important that the new government keep its promise to us," said Yuriy Veresenko, 71, who said he had served in the military for 34 years and was counting on the new government to "return fairness to society."