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Students Strike for Independence in Ukraine

October 15, 1990 GMT

MOSCOW (AP) _ Thousands of students went on strike Monday in Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine, to support hunger strikers’ demands for independence, Soviet media reported.

As many as 50,000 students blocked central streets and marched to the Ukrainian parliament building, where some held a sit-in protest, the independent news agencies Interfax and Postfactum said.

The Ukraine is one of 13 Soviet republics seeking greater autonomy from the central government in Moscow. Although its parliament has declared sovereignty - defined as the right to overrule national laws - the students contend the republic should move more quickly and decisively toward secession.

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The news agencies said 70 to 200 of the protesters broke through a ring of security guards around the parliament building to hold the sit-in.

Meanwhile, another column of students marched to Kiev University, occupied one of its main buildings, hoisted a blue and yellow Ukrainian flag and announced an ″occupation strike,″ Interfax said.

Postfactum said veterans of the war in Afghanistan ″took part in organizing the demonstration and protecting its participants.″ But no police action against the students was reported.

The state-run Soviet press has devoted little attention to the Ukrainian student movement. Interfax and Postfactum are independent agencies established the past two years that distribute information primarily by fax.

Student leaders could not be reached by telephone Monday night for independent confirmation.

Several dozen students set up a tent camp and began the hunger strike in Kiev two weeks ago. Seven opposition members of parliament joined the hunger strike five days ago, and an unknown number of additional hunger strikers have since set up ″solidarity camps″ in five other Ukrainian cities, according to Interfax.

Oles Doniy, a leader of the Ukrainian Students’ Union, reportedly read a list of demands to the parliament on Monday, including the resignation of the regional government.

Leonid Kravchuk, chairman of the Ukrainian Council of Ministers, refused to step down but told the parliament he was willing to start a dialogue with the students, Postfactum said.

The students are also demanding that the Ukraine nationalize Communist Party property, refuse to sign a new union treaty with the other Soviet republics, require Ukrainians drafted into the Red army to serve within the republic’s borders, dissolve the republic’s parliament and call new elections.

Postfactum quoted a student coordinating group as saying that 14 vocational schools, 17 higher educational institutions, 11 technical schools and several research institutes and high schools were on strike.