Disabled Russians Stage Protest Rally

IRKUTSK, Russia — Dozens of disabled people in wheelchairs have picketed the regional government administration building in southeastern Siberia, RFE/RL’s Russian Service reports.

Students of the psychology department at the local university took part in the protest to demonstrate solidarity with the protesters. The protesters held placards saying: “I Want to Walk,” “Rehabilitation Means the Right to Live,” and “This Can Happen to Anyone.”

RFE/RL’s correspondent reports that the protesters demanded that the regional authorities open a rehabilitation center for handicapped people in order to help them to return to work.

The protesters explained that treatment in a private clinic costs at least 80,000 rubles (more than $2,500) per month, which most disabled people cannot afford.

The protesters also demanded the restoration of lower utility fees for the disabled and the abolition of a so-called transportation tax for handicapped persons.

The protesters said that they want to know who is addressing their problems and how. They accuse the regional authorities of taking decisions affecting them without consulting with them beforehand. One of the protest slogans was “Everything Done For Us Should Be Done with Us.”

One of the protest organizers, Sergei Makeyev, who is chairman of a local fund to assist disabled people, told RFE/RL that he and his colleagues are currently working to establish a rehabilitation center for disabled citizens, which along with medical assistance will provide local handicapped persons with social support and training to take part in the Paralympic Games.

The protesters say they are ready to start a hunger strike unless the authorities meet their demand for the opening of a rehabilitation center.

Read more in Russian here

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