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THE LEPERS OF RUSSIA
Written by   
, 16 2008
Today is already the 9th anniversary of the terrorist attack in Volgodonsk, the least known and, Ithink, the most destructive terrorist attack in Russian history.

In ancient times there was a terrible disease leprosy. Those who fell ill with it became social outcasts. InRussia today, lepers are those who have suffered from terrorist attacks in various parts of our vast country.

As a matter of fact, no one knows just how many victims of terrorist attacks there are in Russia, and the figure, Ithink, is very large. There were terrorist attacks in Budyonnovsk, Volgodonsk, Moscow, Beslan, Kaspiisk, Pyatigorsk, Minvody, and many other cities.
Five years after the tragedy of Chernobyl, a federal law on the social protection of citizens affected by the Chernobyl disaster was adopted. Nineyears have passed since the large-scale terrorist attack in Volgodonsk, where more than 15,000 people were injured, including more than 1000children, and we still have not been able to get a federal law on the social protection of victims of terrorist acts adopted.

Since our first appeal for assistance from the government, Russia has changed two parliaments and three presidents and prime ministers.

In the Constitution it was written, even back during the Soviet Union, that: The recognition, respect and the rights and freedoms of individuals IS A DUTY OF THE STATE. InDecember of 1993, the Constitution of the Russian Federation was adopted, and this Article remained in the new Constitution. Legislative and executive authorities, however, somehow forgot about it.

Nothing has helped neither the courts, nor petitions.

During recent live broadcasts of the President's town halls, a lot of Volgodonsk terror victims called him up and asked the same question: Does the President of Russia know about the terror victims' problems? But not once were our questions aired!

Everyone then called me up, and asked WHY? Itis because there is no such thing as a terror victim in Russia! Weare lepers, and all those in power have distanced themselves from us.

Disabilities as a result of the terror attack were determined to be home accidents, carrying minimal disability pensions. Buthow can one live on such pensions? Salaries have been increased for many, including government officials, but disability pensions are still below subsistence levels and no one is interested.

Moreover, the list of drugs (authorized discounts for these disabled) excludes vital injection drugs, and tablets are only dispensed in very limited quantities. Hospitals are also kept on starvation rations, and even getting there is problematic they are kept on a tight rein.

We are always being told: It's time to forget about your terror attack. No one so far has forgotten World War II. Meanwhile we had our own little WAR. Inpeacetime, 2tons TNT equivalent were blown up in our city, in a residential area, and just like in a war we received wounds, contusions, barotraumas, and psychological traumas. Survivors of that terrible morning remember EVERYTHING!

We remember how we grabbed our children and ran through the smoke, how we returned to apartments mangled by the terrific force of the blast to look for documents, how they dug up half a meter of soil on our block and carted it away and brought in new dirt. Whywas that?

In March, the Parliament reconvened to consider our latest appeal on the need to adopt such a law, but the reply was that the bill is not currently at the Parliament. What happened to all the proposals that Attorney Igor Trunov sent them?

In May of 2008, we sent our draft of this law to everyone who, under the Constitution, can initiate such legislation. Werequested that they exercise their power to defend our RIGHT TO A DIGNIFIED LIFE. Ourappeals, however, were routed to various offices that have no relationship whatsoever with legislation. Nowwe are waiting for our letters, addressed to the President and the Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, to be received with our request that they meet personally with us so that we can hand them our proposed bill.

Last year, the President allocated funds to support NGOs (ed: non-governmental/non-profit organizations). There were no rehabilitation programs for victims. Noone is interested in the plight of the people. Wedeveloped and sent to the National Endowment a draft project to study the health status of victims, and to identify the aftereffects of the terror attack. Wewere not on the list of winners, and we still have not received a reply.

This year the President once again has allocated funds to support NGOs, and once again we have sent in our project, since the state is too busy to care about the victims' health.

We very much hope that this year we will be able to start our project with funds allocated by the President for NGOs. Hope, as they say, dies last!

Irina Khalai, chairman of the 'Volga-Don' regional organization promoting the protection of the rights of victims of terrorist attacks

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