A brawl broke out during a meeting of parliament in Kiev today, after communist leader Petro Symonenko accused his political opponents of contributing to the Crimea crisis by using extreme tactics to oust former president Viktor Yanukovych. The comments riled two nationalist leaders, who ran at the podium to physically stop him from speaking.
This dustup then turned into an all-out brawl:
According to Reuters, some harsh words were offered by the communist leader, who had supported Yanukovych until he was deposed:
Symonenko stirred nationalist anger when, referring to pro-Russian protesters who seized buildings in eastern Ukraine, he said nationalists had set a precedent earlier this year by seizing public buildings in protest at the rule of ousted President Viktor Yanukovich. Now, he said, armed groups were attacking people who wanted to defend their rights by peaceful means. "You are today doing everything to intimidate people. You arrest people, start fighting people who have a different point of view," he said, before being pulled away from the rostrum by the Svoboda deputies.
The fight broke out as tensions in Ukraine are running even higher than usual. Yesterday, pro-Russian protesters attempted to declared the city of Donetsk an independent republic and today leaders in Kiev accused Russia of once again manipulating the situation to create a pretext for war. According to Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk, "An anti-Ukrainian plan is being put into operation ... under which foreign troops will cross the border and seize the territory of the country. We will not allow this." Acting President Oleksander Turchinov, said the Kremlin is trying to replicate "the Crimea scenario."
Officials reported that 70 people are being held after occupying a building, in Kharkiv that has since been cleared. But protesters who have seized government buildings in other cities are holding strong.
Meanwhile, Russia's Foreign Ministry issued a statement "calling for the immediate cessation of any military preparations, which could lead to civil war." The statement, which recalls the Kremlin's explanation for entering Crimea, does not inspire confidence, especially as some see increased potential for a Russian invasion of Eastern Ukraine. According to Vox.com's Max Fisher, that scenario is "very rapidly started to look more likely."
Or maybe the frustrated leaders in Kiev were just blowing off a little steam. After all, this isn't the first time a Ukrainian parliamentary meeting has turned into a round of fisticuffs:
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.