KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian veterans of the 10-year Soviet Afghan war, angry about proposed cuts to payouts, snubbed President Viktor Yanukovich on Wednesday, turning their backs on him at a ceremony to mark the 23rd anniversary of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Veterans of the 1979-89 Soviet military campaign are furious about plans to cut pensions and subsidies as part of austerity measures aimed at reducing Ukraine's public deficit to secure further International Monetary Fund financing.
When Yanukovich arrived at a Kiev memorial site to lay a wreath to the war dead, a group of veterans, waiting in line, turned their backs to him on the parade command "About turn!".
They turned back again to face the monument after Yanukovich and members of the government had left.
"The President was the first to turn his back on us. We, in reply, turned our backsides on him," said one unnamed veteran, quoted by the New District news agency.
Ukraine's Afghan veterans are among the most active of interest groups protesting against austerity plans and proposed cuts to benefits.
Last September, scores of them clashed with police when they tried to storm the Ukrainian parliament and they have taken part in several public demonstrations since.