KIEV, Ukraine (AP) _ A 35-year-old miner doused himself with gasoline and set himself on fire today to protest months of unpaid wages. Police and fellow miners put out the flames and rushed him to a hospital.

Oleksandr Mykhalevych was hospitalized in the eastern city of Luhansk with burns covering nearly half his body, the independent UNIAN and Interfax news agencies said.

Doctors were treating Mykhalevych, who remained in critical condition and on a respirator.

Mykhalevych, a father of three, set himself ablaze in front of a government building to protest the chronic non-payment of miners' wages. He and his colleagues from a mine in the nearby town of Alchevsk have not been paid in six months to a year.

Mykhalevych, who is owed more $1,460, about a year's salary for an average miner, is among 200 miners from Alchevsk who have picketed the regional administration building since the summer to demand overdue salaries.

But despite living for months in tents in a city park in front of Luhansk government headquarters, the miners have failed to get their money.

Before setting himself on fire, Mykhalevych wrote a note saying he was acting because he had lost hope of receiving his wages.

``I'm tired of being scorned by mine directors and the regional administration. My (self-immolation) is hardly a way out, but it might help resolve the matter more quickly,'' read the note, according to UNIAN.

More than 20,000 coal workers are currently on strike, part of a series of protests that have kept dozens of Ukraine's 275 mines idled for months, the Independent Miners' Union said.

Despite the protests, the government has so far failed to pay back wages in the mining industry. Miners are currently owed more than $584 million in overdue salaries, and the debt has been increasing.

Many of the mines are unprofitable and the cash-strapped government lacks money for wages and subsidies.