Tensions rise as Ukrainian parliament ratifies controversial deal
KIEV, April 27 (RIA Novosti) - The Ukrainian parliament has ratified the naval base deal with Russia amid brawls in the chamber and clashes outside parliament, a RIA Novosti correspondent reported on Tuesday.
EGGS AND SMOKE BOMBS
The hearings started with a brawl and eggs were thrown at the parliamentary speaker. However, it took lawmakers 40 minutes to ratify the deal, extending the Russian Navy base in Crimea for another 25 years after the current lease expires in 2017.
A total of 236 Supreme Rada lawmakers voted for the ratification with a minimum of 226 needed to pass the bill.
The speaking rostrum was guarded by lawmakers of the Party of Regions, who protected the speaker with umbrellas from eggs being thrown. Sporadic brawls broke out in the parliament during the hearings.
Several lawmakers walked out of the Ukrainian parliament as two smoke bombs were thrown during the discussion, but the session continued against all odds. It was over only when the legislature ratified the Black Sea Fleet deal and adopted the country's federal 2010 budget.
PROTESTS OUTSIDE PARLIAMENT
About 7,000 protestors and supporters gathered in front of the parliament, according to police estimates. Ukrainian opposition parties said some 10,000 of its activists will take to the streets, the pro-presidential Party of Regions said it would gather some 5,000 supporters.
Ukrainian police and the country's opposition briefly clashed in front of the Supreme Rada as opposition members tried to get through into the parliamentary building. The attempt was suppressed by police.
Supporters of the incumbent president, Viktor Yanukovych, who set up a tent city around the Supreme Rada ahead of the hearings, welcomed the ratification by chanting: "Yanukovych! Yanukovych!"
Their political opponents responded by chanting: "Shame! Shame!"
The two rival groups are currently separated by a police cordon.
Opposition activists demonstrated aggressive behavior, constantly shouting "Down with Yanukovych!" "Down with [his] gang!"
The Party of Regions supporters have remained calm.
Activists of Ukrainian nationalist movement "Svoboda" (Freedom) are trying to break police cordons, and are throwing plastic bottles at police officers.
No casualties have been reported so far, though sporadic fights between the political adversaries have broken out, however they were quickly suppressed by the country's riot police.
Ukrainian ex-president Viktor Yushchenko arrived to the parliamentary building, where he held a press briefing to criticize the new government for "trading sovereignty for gas."
RUSSIA RATIFIES THE DEAL
Lawmakers of Russia's State Duma greeted the Ukrainian parliament's ratification with applause.
The lower chamber of the Russian parliament also ratified the agreement half an hour after Ukraine's Supreme Rada passed the bill.
A total of 410 deputies of the 450-strong parliament voted for the ratification.
Russia's opposition Liberal Democratic party (LDPR) said it would boycott the vote, citing a lack of guarantees that the Ukrainian side would honor the treaty.The upper chamber of the Russian Government, the Federation Council, is to discuss the deal on Wednesday.