Amazing photo: Ukraine’s parliament devolves into vicious, all-out brawl

December 12, 2012

Ukrainian lawmakers fight over worsening political divisions. (SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)

This is what happened Wednesday, the first day of the national legislature's new session, in Kiev's Verkhovna Rada parliament building. Those are national lawmakers.

Yes, scuffles are nothing new for the Ukrainian parliament, as this slideshow demonstrates. Given that former prime minister was sentenced to seven years in prison, on charges that the European Union said were politically motivated; and that the recent election was marred by violence, protests and allegations of fraud, maybe it's not shocking that lawmakers are unhappy with one another.

The Wall Street Journal's Tom Gara calls this scene "maybe the most vigorous punch to the groin ever caught on camera." Gara tweets, "Look at that picture closely: perfect technique, full extension, putting his back into it, connects at the apex of the punch for max force. He's punching that guy in the groin so hard that he took his tie off beforehand. For aerodynamics."

Ukrainian lawmakers have a lot to be upset about. Their country's democracy has seen some worrying setbacks over the last year. Most famously, former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison for alleged abuse of office while brokering Ukraine's energy contracts with Russia; her imprisonment has been widely criticized as politically motivated.

Here's the Kyiv Post's report on how Tymoshenko's imprisonment and a recent disputed election, in which President Viktor Yanukovych's majority party was accused of abuses, led to today's brawl:

Five out of 450 parliament seats remain empty after allegations of fraud and ballot-stuffing led election officials to schedule new votes in five dispute election districts.

On Wednesday, lawmakers from Tymoshenko's party showed up in parliament wearing black jerseys with her portrait on the front and the phrase "Freedom to Political Prisoners" written on the back.

A fist fight began when opposition lawmakers shouting "No to defectors!" attacked two legislators who had been elected on the opposition ticket but were suspected of preparing to defect to [President Viktor] Yanukovych's party.

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Max Fisher · December 12, 2012