Tags: Ukraine | Parliament | scuffle | argue

Arguing Ukraine Parliament Members Scuffle

Tuesday, 27 Apr 2010 08:54 AM

KIEV – Ukraine's parliament erupted into chaos on Tuesday as deputies scuffled and hurled smoke bombs during a tumultuous session that ratified a bitterly contested deal with Russia extending a naval base lease.

Despite the extraordinary scenes that saw the Verkhovna Rada filled with smoke, the parliament ratified the deal to extend the stay of the Russian Black Sea fleet which the opposition has denounced as a sell-out for Ukraine.

The uproar started when the speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, Volodymr Lytvyn, was pelted with volley of a dozen eggs, forcing him to duck for cover behind two black umbrellas held by two aides in suits.

Several smoke bombs were thrown, apparently by pro-Western opposition deputies and the chamber filled with smoke.

Some deputies covered their faces or held handkerchiefs to their noses as alarms sounded.

Punches were then exchanged on the deputies' benches and one MP was seen thumping another on the head. Another gripped a fellow deputy in a headlock as others piled in with eager punches.

Deputies also started fighting over a massive Ukrainian flag in the middle of the chamber, twisting and distorting the yellow and blue banner as smoke continued to billow.

Andriy Shevchenko, a member of parliament from the bloc headed by Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister, acknowledged that the smoke bombs were thrown by "our deputies."

But he said the action was justified. "History will be our judge," Shevchenko said. "In principle, the mood was to use all means possible short of guns."

Amid the chaos, some deputies tried to push on with their business and give their floor speeches as if nothing extraordinary was taking place.

With some lawmakers shouting "Shame, Shame!" the parliament ratified the pact with 236 lawmakers voting in favour of the deal in the 450 seat chamber.

"Neither smoke bombs, egg-throwing, nor fighting is going to prevent the majority from taking its decisions," said Prime Minister Mykola Azarov after the session.

The deputies were ratifying the deal signed last week by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovych to extend the lease on Russia's Black Sea Fleet naval base in Crimea until at least 2042.

The deal had been slammed by the pro-Western Ukrainian opposition, including Tymoshenko and former president Viktor Yushchenko, as a historic surrender of sovereignty.

Olexander Yefreimov, a top MP from Yanukovych's Regions Party said the culprits behind the chaos would be revealed from video tapes and this "is now a matter for law enforcement".

In Moscow, Russia's lower house of parliament the State Duma ratified the deal with 410 deputies voting in favour and none against, without a hint of dissent.

Thousands of supporters of Ukraine's previous pro-Western government protested outside parliament over the decision, shouting "Death to Traitors" and "Crimea is Ours".

Tymoshenko told her supporters to hold another protest on May 11 to force snap parliamentary elections in the parliament, which currently has a pro-Yanukovych majority.

"From today we are starting to unite all the country," she said.

Yushchenko meanwhile angrily described the ratification of the fleet accord as a "military usurpation of the country", his office said.

Amid a heavy security presence, supporters of Yanukovych held a counter rally brandishing banners with slogans like "Ukraine and Russia: Strategic Partners."

The fleet deal marked a dramatic turnaround in Russian-Ukrainian ties after the relationship became so bad under Yanukovych's predecessor, the fiercely pro-Western Viktor Yushchenko, that Moscow refused to do business with him.

Under the deal, Russia agreed to give Ukraine a 30 percent discount on Russian natural gas imports estimated to be worth 40 billion dollars over 10 years.

In exchange, Kiev has extended the lease of Russia's Black Sea Fleet base in Crimea for another 25 years after 2017, with the option of another five year extension after 2042.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had earlier Tuesday held talks with Ukraine's leadership, offering an unprecedented nuclear cooperation deal and admitting the gas deal had hurt the Russian budget.

"The amount that this has cost us is really something else. For this kind of money I could have eaten Yanukovych and your prime minister together," said Putin.

Underlining the strength of Moscow-Kiev ties, he also offered Yanukovych an effective merger of the two countries' nuclear power businesses.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.

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KIEV – Ukraine's parliament erupted into chaos on Tuesday as deputies scuffled and hurled smoke bombs during a tumultuous session that ratified a bitterly contested deal with Russia extending a naval base lease.
Ukraine,Parliament,scuffle,argue
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2010-54-27
Tuesday, 27 Apr 2010 08:54 AM
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