KYIV -- Ukrainian lawmakers representing the ruling Party of Regions and the Communist Party have met for a parliamentary session without opposition factions being present.
The deputies representing the legislature's majority started the April 4 session outside the usual chamber, in a nearby parliamentary building. They moved the session after opposition factions blocked the parliament's podium again. Opposition factions have blocked the podium and parliamentary business a number of times in recent months.
Deputies with the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reforms (Udar), led by professional heavyweight boxer Vitali Klitschko, and members of the Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) and Svoboda (Liberty) parties are taking part in the podium protest.
Batkivshchyna faction leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk said that opposition deputies are demanding the Kyiv mayoral election be moved up to June, the cancellation of a pension-reform program, and the resignation of the government.
Parliament speaker Volodymyr Rybak began the majority's session without opposition lawmakers, saying that a total of 244 deputies were present. A legal parliamentary session requires the presence of 226 lawmakers.
Party of Regions parliamentary leader Oleksandr Yefremov told journalists that there is nothing wrong with holding a session without the opposition.
"The majority may gather separately if the opposition doesn't want to work together with us," he said. "We may invite those members of parliament who are interested. There may be a discussion. The rules of procedure do not forbid us from deciding to hold a [parliamentary] session or adopt laws."
Several Udar members went to the majority's session to count the number of deputies there. An RFE/RL correspondent reported the ruling party deputies did not allow the Udar members to enter the room. Udar lawmakers scuffled with the group of Party of Regions members, who blocked the chamber's entrance.
Udar deputy chairman Vitaliy Kovalchuk told journalists that, according to a count made from a live video transmission of the session, there were no more than 180 deputies present. That would the make the separate session invalid.
The opposition factions later held their own session in the parliament's usual chamber.
Yatsenyuk called the situation a "coup d'etat" and compared it with the August 1991 attempt by antiperestroika hard-liners to take power in the Soviet Union.
He said that Ukraine's ruling party members and communists should remember that the Soviet coup leaders all ended up in jail.
"We as the opposition are ready for any scenario, including early presidential or parliamentary elections," he said. "President [Viktor] Yanukovych has to understand that any decision made by the majority outside parliament -- and, God forbid, approved by the president -- will be an attempt at a constitutional coup and a direct cause for the impeachment of the president. If they only try to follow this scenario, we will become much more radical."
The opposition factions held their own session in the parliament's usual chamber.