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Belarus' former Chernobyl cleanup workers set to found association next month

An association of former Chernobyl cleanup workers is expected to be founded at a May 27 conference in Minsk.

As Alyaksandr Valchanin, a social worker who spearheads the effort to establish the association, said in an interview with BelaPAN, doctors, policemen, drivers and rescuers who were involved in handling the aftermath of the world's worst nuclear accident have expressed readiness to join the nascent organization.

According to the activist, a total of 115,000 workers involved in the 1986-88 cleanup effort, including 11,200 people with disability, reside in Belarus at present.

The association would push for providing former Chernobyl cleanup workers with free treatment at health retreats, free medicines and an additional two weeks of paid leave, and lowering the retirement age for them to 55 years.

"If the country's top officials say that the country's economy is surging, they should restore the benefits that Chernobyl cleanup workers were stripped of 12 years ago," Mr. Valchanin said.

He noted that the plans to found the association had met with support from both former Chernobyl cleanup workers and the justice ministry. "We will cooperate with cleanup workers' associations in Russia and Ukraine, as well as with the National Assembly's House of Representatives and the Belarusian-Russian Union State's Parliamentary Assembly to ensure that lawmakers solve the problems of cleanup workers with our help," the activist said.

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