About 3,000 Protest Imminent Rise In Maintenance And Utilities Rates In Ukraine Capital

KIEV, Ukraine -- About 3,000 people blocked traffic in Kiev on Thursday to protest against an imminent increase in housing maintenance and utilities rates in the Ukrainian capital.

Kiev Mayor Leonid Chernovetsky

As of Dec. 1, many Kiev residents will see their monthly payments for maintenance, electricity, gas, heat and other services increase more than threefold.

The protest was organized by the parties of President Viktor Yushchenko and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, and most of the anger was directed at Kiev Mayor Leonid Chernovetsky, a former businessman elected in March.

Lyubov Grabarenko, a retiree in the angry crowd outside the mayor's office, said she would have to pay 500 hryvna ($100) per month, more than her monthly pension of 382 hryvna ($75).

"How can it be? How will I survive?" she said. "Chernovetsky wants people to become beggars."

Chernovetsky said the rates have remained unchanged for years, and said the protest organizers "just want to make a chaos at the mayor's office."

Many city administrations across the whole of Ukraine have increased maintenance and utilities rates this season, sparking protests. The increases in Kiev are the sharpest.

The minimum monthly wage in Ukraine is 400 hryvna ($79) as minimum monthly pension is 366 hryvna ($72).

Source: AP