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Bush, Putin Mark Chernobyl Disaster


Russian President Vladimir Putin has given awards to workers who cleaned up the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, while other plant workers continued a hunger strike to protest reduced benefits.

The strikers, in the St. Petersburg area, are protesting a cut in the benefits they get because of disabilities resulting from their service at the disabled power plant. They say they will end their fast Wednesday, the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster.

Meanwhile President Bush reaffirmed his commitment to the ongoing effort to improve the safety and security of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor site in Ukraine.

Mr. Bush made the pledge Tuesday in a statement marking the anniversary. He said that by closing Chernobyl more than five years ago, a free Ukraine removed an environmental threat built by an oppressive government in what was then the Soviet Union.

A reactor at the Soviet-designed Chernobyl plant exploded 25 years ago, releasing a plume of radiation that spread across much of Europe. The World Health Organization estimates that Chernobyl's radiation eventually will cause fatal cancers in around 9,000 people worldwide.

President Bush said he joins his fellow Americans in expressing deepest condolences for the tragedy.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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