- Associated Press - Friday, December 17, 2010

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s often tumultuous politics plunged into actual chaos when a fight in parliament sent at least six legislators to the hospital with concussions, a fractured jaw and multiple bruises.

Ambulances rushed to parliament late Thursday after lawmakers from President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions stormed the parliament podium, which was occupied by opposition allies of former premier Yulia Tymoshenko. The pro-presidential lawmakers threw fists and chairs at their opponents.

Pro-Tymoshenko legislators had been blocking legislative work all day, protesting a corruption probe against her.

Scuffles between lawmakers are frequent in Ukraine, but Thursday’s fight was the most violent to date. Parliament Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn, who hid from flying eggs and smoke bombs behind an umbrella during a fight in April, said Friday it was time to put an end to the mess.

Mr. Lytvyn produced iron bars, chains and locks, which he said were brought into the hall Thursday and said some lawmakers even threatened to use the guns that they often bring with them.

“What relation does this have to legislative activity?” he said. “How can we teach children democracy and love for their motherland?”

The Prosecutor General’s Office this week opened a criminal investigation on suspicion that Ms. Tymoshenko misallocated hundreds of millions of dollars when she was prime minister. Ms. Tymoshenko, who lost February’s presidential election to Mr. Yanukovych, calls the probe politically motivated.

Six lawmakers were injured in the fight and four of them were still in the hospital Friday, Ms. Tymoshenko’s office said.

“This hall has not yet seen such inhuman hatred, animal rage and a desire not only to handicap but to kill,” her party said.

Party of Regions said its members weren’t hurt but blamed the opposition for triggering the fight. Oleksandr Yefremov of the party said opposition lawmakers brought chains into parliament hall to block its doors and prevent his colleagues from entering.

Mr. Yefremov also noted that dozens of his colleagues were hurt in April when opposition lawmakers threw smoke bombs into the hall to protest a naval pact with Russia.

Ms. Tymoshenko was summoned for questioning by prosecutors Wednesday and was banned from leaving Kiev as part of the corruption probe. The abuse of office accusations against her center on the purported misspending of $280 million received by the government for the sale of carbon credits under the Kyoto protocol.

Ms. Tymoshenko has admitted that she used the money to pay pensions amid a severe recession, but said all the funds were later returned and spent on environmental needs as stipulated by the agreement.

A number of senior officials in her former government have been investigated, charged and jailed in what Ms. Tymoshenko calls the president’s “witch hunt of the opposition.” The government says it is fighting corruption.