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Ukraine opposition mourns democracy after MP brawl

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Dec. 17, 2010, 2 p.m. | Ukraine — by Reuters

The fight broke out after members of Tymoshenko's BYuT faction blocked the parliament chamber on Thursday to protest against a criminal case initiated against her over abuse of office allegations, which she denies

Ukrainian opposition lawmakers lit candles in parliament on Friday to "mourn the death of democracy" a day after a bloody brawl put several supporters of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko in the hospital. The fight broke out after members of Tymoshenko's BYuT faction blocked the parliament chamber on Thursday to protest against a criminal case initiated against her over abuse of office allegations, which she denies.

Deputies from President Viktor Yanukovich's Regions Party stormed into the chamber and ejected BYuT lawmakers after a brief fight involving fists and chairs.

"Yesterday, in this chamber, whatever had remained of Ukraine's democracy was brutally and cynically destroyed," Tymoshenko's faction said in a statement. It said one of its members suffered a broken arm and another concussion.

BYuT members then walked out of the chamber as lawmakers began hearings on allegations of wrongdoing by Tymoshenko during her second stint as a prime minister in 2007-2010.

Tymoshenko, who narrowly lost to Yanukovich in a February presidential election, was ordered by state prosecutors this week not to leave the country. She said she expected to be charged later this month.

In October, auditors hired by Yanukovich's government alleged Tymoshenko's cabinet had illegally used funds from selling carbon emission rights under the Kyoto Protocol to plug gaps in the pension fund.

Tymoshenko's supporters have described the audit and accusations against her former ministers, three of whom face similar charges, as an attempt to intimidate the opposition.

Yanukovich's representative, Yuri Miroshnychenko, said he "urges all political forces... to be responsible and treat each other with tolerance," the Interfax news agency reported.

Tymoshenko, 50, was a leader of the 2004 "Orange Revolution" street protests that stripped Yanukovich of victory in a disputed presidential election.

Pro-Western politician Viktor Yushchenko then won a re-run of the election with Tymoshenko's support but their relations soured badly, allowing Yanukovich to stage a comeback this year amid public discontent and economic decline.

Since taking office, Yanukovich has gradually consolidated his power and improved his party's grip in elections for district councils and mayor which drew Western criticism.

The Constitutional Court earlier this year returned to the presidency powers lost to parliament in 2004, and Yanukovich now has the authority to appoint the prime minister and other government members. Many human rights groups say press freedoms are being increasingly violated in the country and pro-democracy non-government organisations are being harassed.







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