Hundreds of Chernobyl cleanup veterans outraged at planned benefit cuts have tried to break into the Ukrainian parliament, prompting President Viktor Yanukovych to claim that armed attacks were being planned on the authorities.
The demonstrators on Tuesday broke through a metal fence that was erected around the parliament several weeks ago after the first attempt of the Chernobyl workers and veterans of the Soviet war in Afghanistan to break into the building, media reports said.
"We're going to take the Verkhovna Rada [the Ukrainian parliament] apart, brick by brick, and hang its deputies, one by one", one of the protestors was quoted as saying by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
Ukrainian law currently places people who fought for the Soviet Union in the 1979-1989 Afghan war, and people injured during the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power accident, in a special tax and benefits category. However, in September, lawmakers gave initial approval to a bill cutting back on these privileges.
The protest actions in Ukraine against the cancellation of social benefits are aimed at undermining the financial stability in the country, Yanukovych said, according to the Kyiv Post weekly.
At a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Yanukovych gave one example where lawyers from a village organized local residents to go to court to seek compensation for unpaid benefits.
According to the president, the courts ordered the government to pay 6 billion hrivnya (€ 543 million) in compensation.
"Today, those who received under court rulings pensions of 30,000 hrivnya a year [€2,700] have come to break the fences [outside the parliament]”, the president said, “because they want to disrupt the financial stability in Ukraine, to disrupt the political stability and go to the streets with pitchforks."
He said the police have evidence that weapons are being bought into the country and armed attacks on the authorities are being prepared.
"I learned from law-enforcement agencies that arms are being bought [into Ukraine] and armed attacks on government agencies are being prepared," Yanukovych said.
"Tell me, have people lost their fear and conscience? Who's organizing this? Not those who live most miserable life. Those who are in more difficult circumstances are silent, they are suffering and waiting," he said.
In the meantime, a protestor who has held talks with the government said Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Tigipko vowed that the special tax and benefits for the veterans would be not be cut.
However, the protestors said they would not go home until the promises materialise.
The Ukrainian Foundation for Democracy 'People First' said "Out of all groups of social benefits recipients Chernobyl disaster liquidators and Afghanistan war veterans are the most mobilised in terms of protests."
"However, they are fighting for a theoretical right to receive benefits, as the majority of them neither fully received their benefits in the past, nor will they receive them in future. It is sad that none of those who made illegal profits by laundering public funds will suffer here," it added.