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The Ukrainian Parliament's Greatest Hits

A scene from the fighting on March 19, fresh off a parliamentary recess.

A scene from the fighting on March 19, fresh off a parliamentary recess.

Egg hurling, punching, bloody faces, torn suits, and deputies carried out on stretchers -- over the past couple of years Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, has seen it all. After yet more scuffles this week heralded the beginning of the first legislative session in almost a month, RFE/RL takes a look back at the top five "greatest hits" in the Verkhovna Rada.

1. Eggs And Smoke Bombs

Spontaneous fights are one thing; coming to parliament "armed" with eggs and smoke bombs considerably ups the ante. Cue the chaos of April 27, 2010 following the approval of a highly contested deal that allowed the Russian navy to prolong its stay in Ukraine until 2042.

Parliamentary speaker Volodymr Lytvyn found himself with two umbrellas placed in a defensive position in front of his microphone as angry opposition deputies aimed eggs at his head. Remarkably, despite the dozens of eggs spilling over his umbrella and a smoke bomb exploding in the corner and setting off the alarm system, Lytvyn continued to address the chamber without displaying the slightest outward sign of discomfort. In the meantime, on the sidelines, deputies can be seen throwing more punches and strangling each other.

2. 'Hands Off The Language'

When issues of language and politics bump up against one another, the situation has the potential to turn into a powder keg. Perhaps one of the most violent fistfights broke out in the Ukrainian parliament on May 24, 2012 in the midst of a debate on a draft law that recommended giving the Russian language the same status as Ukrainian in 13 out of Ukraine’s 27 regions. The fight broke out between members of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions -- which is popular in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking east -- and pro-Western opposition deputies. Opposition lawmaker Mykola Petruk had to be taken to the hospital with blood streaming down his face after he reportedly suffered a blow to the head. While deputies were literally taking a "hands on approach," among hundreds of activists outside the parliament, a picketer held up a sign with the words: "Hands Off The Language."

3. ‘Step Away From The Podium’

It's not uncommon for Ukrainian deputies to leave the parliament building with ripped shirts and bloody faces. But even by the parliament's pugilistic standards the fistfights in these photos seem extreme. The images of chaos, with deputies falling over and climbing over each other, were taken during the sessions of the newly elected parliament on December 12, 2012.

The fisticuffs broke out over the highly disputed practice of voting in place of absent deputies. Head of Ukraine's Udar (translated as Punch) party and heavyweight boxer Vitali Klitschko stood aside and did not join the fights, joking that his punches would have the effect of nuclear weapons.

Here's video of the first day of the action:

Here are some photos after the fistfights continued for a second day on December 13, after which the deputies backed Mykola Azarov for a second term as prime minister.

4. Chains And Iron Bars

When a deputy is carried out of the Ukrainian parliament building on a stretcher it is clear that yet another bloody brawl has gotten out of hand. After deputies from former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko's Fatherland party blocked the parliament podium in December 2010, lawmakers from President Viktor Yanukovych's Party of Regions decided to take it back by force. In the ensuing fight, six opposition deputies were injured and five had to spend the night in a hospital. Mykhailo Volynets, the deputy who left the building in a stretcher, accused Petro Tsurko, a deputy from the Party of Regions, of grabbing a chair and smashing it over his head. Tsurko denied hurting Volynets on purpose, saying he had been trying to throw the chair aside.

Parliamentary speaker Lytvyn later showed chains and iron bars that he claimed some deputies had brought into the building and threatened to use as weapons.

5. Klitschko Blocks The Podium

Disclaimer: No fistfights broke out in the following example.

Once again, the 2-meter-tall professional heavy heavyweight boxing champion Klitschko decided to take advantage of his intimidating appearance when on February 6 he decided to block the podium in the parliament for the following two weeks. Allied under the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Opposition banner, deputies from Klitschko’s Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reforms (Udar) and the Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party were demanding a stop to a practice known as “piano voting,” whereby deputies in the parliament press the voting buttons for their absent colleagues. They demanded that a fingerprint-recognition system be implemented.

Klitschko and his deputies did not give up easily, spending days and nights on the parliament’s podium. Two weeks later, the blockade was ended after a compromise was reached and deputies voted on a bill requiring them to vote in person. The bill however has still not been fully implemented.

-- Deana Kjuka

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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