Sunday, August 28, 2016


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.

Ukraine's Parliament Scufflesi
|| 0:00:00
April 27, 2010
Opposition lawmakers throw eggs and smoke bombs inside Ukraine's parliament as the chamber approves a deal allowing the Russian Navy to extend its stay in Ukraine's Crimea until 2042.

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:
Brawl Breaks Out In Ukraine's Parliamenti
December 12, 2012
During the opening session of Ukraine's parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, on December 12, opposition deputies blocked a vote on the nomination of Mykola Azarov to a second term as prime minister. (RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service)

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.

  • They might have been the first sessions of a new parliament, but Ukraine's lawmakers were back to their old ways on December 12 and 13 when melees on the chamber floor interrupted the proceedings.
  • The inaugural session even came with its own fight card taped to the rostrum, in this case accusing father-and-son opposition lawmakers Andriy and Oleksandr Tabalov of planning to defect to the ranks of the ruling Party of Regions. Both Tabalovs were pushed from the chamber before they could be administered the parliamentary oath.
  • The fracas even spilled outside the chamber.
  • But as you'll see in the following photos, most of the action was inside.
  • If there are going to be fisticuffs in parliament, it's wise to ensconce yourself next to a reigning world heavyweight boxing champion-cum-lawmaker. But Vitali Klitschko (left) sat this this one out entirely.
  • The December scuffles were only the most recent instances of brawls breaking up the legislative proceedings in Kyiv. The last such fracas took place on May 24.

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.

Lawmakers Brawl In Ukrainian Parliamenti
|| 0:00:00
December 17, 2010
A fistfight broke out in the Ukrainian parliament on December 16 as lawmakers belonging to President Viktor Yanukovich's Party of Regions clashed with opposition deputies. The opposition had earlier brought proceedings to a halt when they staged an action to support former Prime MinisterYulia Tymoshenko, who is under criminal investigation.

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.

Ukraine's Opposition Blocks Parliament Againi
March 05, 2013
Opposition parliamentary deputies began their latest effort to block the work of parliament on March 5, occupying the podium to protest a ruling party campaign to expel deputy Serhiy Vlasenko. (Video by RFE/RL's Ukraine Service)

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
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Irina from: NY
March 20, 2013 17:55
Looks like paid for post Kremlin's anti-Ukrainian propaganda. Really disappointing to see such low journalism on the RFE/RL. No substance, no information. Not surprising: Russia invests a lot of money in campaigns for discrediting Ukraine, Moldova etc in Western media. RFE/RL just joined the list. Well Russia invests a lot in sponsoring of political chaos in these and other countries too.
In Response

by: Xhabir Zh. from: Not telling you
March 21, 2013 10:22
Not necessarily. On one hand it can be viewed as a Russian propaganda as you put it, however on the other hand this thing has also an entertainment value. I believe this was clearly done for entertainment purposes. People want to see this, people like this sort of materials. It's not hard to find countless videos or pictures of the same events in other places by a simple google query, however RFE/RL saw the opportunity to get more traffic by putting these things in their web and they did so.

On the other hand, this can be also seen as a wake up call for the Ukranian parliament. This is indeed a funny and humiliating article, but it's hard to attribute it to some political agenda that you speak of.
In Response

by: Anonymous
March 21, 2013 14:29
it's ukrainian parliamentarians who act like uneducated and spoiled children (not russian politicians, russia...) who discredit ukraine.

just look carefully and try to think in an unbiased way.

no wonder, nothing much happens in ukraine in positive terms.

corruption, nepotism, accusations, conspiracy theories, etc.
fact is:
some deputies in parliament rather engage in fist fights than in reflections about ukraine's future.

so far no one has been dismissed or fined.

by: Jack from: US
March 20, 2013 19:32
Maybe Yulia Timoshenko is best friends with Hillary but this does not excuse his childish boorish behaviour.

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
March 21, 2013 16:30
Guys, you are being just as cheap as always: publishing some already customary scenes of fighting in the Ukr. Rada, while preferring to "forget" about the fact that TODAY (Thursday) ROSNEFT became the BIGGEST oil comp. in the world.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
March 22, 2013 06:30
And one more thing you fogot to mention: Today (FR) the new Chinese President Xi Jinping is visiting RUSSIA on his FIRST foreign trip. Apparently he and Putin will discuss how to help the US continue lose wars and lose political, economic and military influence on the intl arena.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
March 22, 2013 13:23
And here is a VIDEO on the meeting between those two giants - RUSSIA and CHINA - that are shaping the future of the 21st century:

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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