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Report: Officials Pocket Funds Allocated for Chernobyl Victims

November 28, 1996

MOSCOW (AP) _ The federal prosecutor’s office accused regional governments Thursday of misappropriating funds earmarked for victims of the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe.

Authorities in the Bryansk, Krasnodar, Kursk, Rostov and other regions of southern and central Russia are alleged to have spent the money on their own needs or loaned them to businesses.

Bryansk regional officials alone misused some $300,000 that was supposed to be spent on compensation to Chernobyl victims, the ITAR-Tass news agency said, citing the prosecutor’s general office.

Western Bryansk region was among the hardest hit by radiocative fallout from the explosion of Chernobyl nuclear plant’s reactor No. 4 in April 1986 _ the world’s worst nuclear disaster.

Soviet authorities evacuated tens of thousands of people from the most contaminated lands in Ukraine, Belarus and the Bryansk region of Russia.

The government has for years provided benefits and compensation to the evacuees and other people exposed to radiation. People who helped clean up the disaster site and build a protective concrete shelter over the blown reactor are also eligible for compensation.

The Soviet government sent thousands of people into the disaster zone after the accident, exposing them to dangerously high radiation levels. Many have since fallen ill.

In St. Petersburg, four men who helped in the cleanup began a hunger strike Thursday to protest the government’s failure to pay benefits.

One of the organizers of the strike, Viktor Korzhov, told the Interfax news agency that the government hasn’t paid any of the social benefits St. Petersburg’s Chernobyl veterans and victims are entitled to since March. Among those benefits are medical care.

The cash-strapped Russian government is behind on wages, pensions and benefits to millions of people.

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