Ukrainian Opposition Goes After The Microphones

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko yesterday signed a decree dismissing First Deputy Interior Minister Aleksandr Fokin, who accused his boss of arranging the tapping of telephone conversations of high-ranking Interior Ministry officials. Kiev has decided to suppress the scandal by firing its initiator, and the center of tension shifted yesterday to the Supreme Rada, where deputies spent the whole day sorting out their relations with one another.

The parliamentary microphones took the brunt of the political battle in the Supreme Rada

There was already a whiff of a brawl in the Supreme Rada the day before. Representatives of opposition factions blockaded the parliamentary rostrum, demanding that their colleagues in the executive branch resign their powers as deputies. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko had tried to get the same from a number of bureaucrats. The combined efforts paid off. Petr Poroshenko, the secretary of the National Security Council, yesterday submitted a letter of resignation from his powers as deputy.

This success reinforced the belief of the parliamentary opposition, especially members of the Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU), that they were on the right track in the political struggle. They continued to blockade the rostrum, despite the fact that Speaker Vladimir Litvin ordered the cost of the microphone torn from the parliamentary leader's seat the day before to be deducted from the salary of one of the deputies.

The ruling parties weren't asleep either. At the very start of the session, about 30 deputies from the Yulia Timoshenko Bloc, the People's Party, and the Our Ukraine faction surrounded the rostrum. These elected representatives of the people had received instructions from the government to ensure passage of a package of laws dealing with Ukraine's accession to the WTO. However, as soon as the Speaker tried to announce discussion of the question entered on the agenda, Communist Party member Aleksander Bondarenko began to break off the speaker's microphone. Members of the People's Party tried to stop him. A scuffle broke out. After a while, passions cooled, but the Communist deputies refused to leave the rostrum.

Somewhat later, when Litvin gave the floor to Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko in the discussion of the draft bills on WTO accession, the Communists roused themselves again. In order to prevent the prime minister from speaking, Communist Party member Aleksey Bondarchuk turned on the siren. Andrey Shkil, Timoshenko's colleague in the bloc, tried to obstruct the Communist. Communist Yury Salamatin came to his comrade's defense, and a fight broke out between him and Shkil. Social Democratic Party member Nestor Shufrich pulled the fighters apart, but the remaining deputies blockading the rostrum had already joined in the brawl.

Nevertheless, towards evening, the Supreme Rada passed the first of a series of laws required to accelerate the country's accession to the WTO and also approved another two draft bills on first reading. However, the deputies refused to consider several other key draft bills, despite the urging of Prime Minister Timoshenko and President Yushchenko, who asked parliament to pass another ten laws eliminating problems in the negotiations Ukraine's accession to the WTO before the end of this week.

Source: Kommersant