Ukraine PM re-elected amid fights and protest

Fri, Dec 14, 2012, 00:00

Ukraine’s parliament has re-appointed Mykola Azarov as prime minister amid a second torrid day of protests and punch-ups between pro-government and opposition deputies.

Six weeks after an election criticised by western observers and denounced as fraudulent by opposition parties, deputies exchanged blows while activists from the Femen group bared their breasts at the entrance to parliament in an anti-corruption protest.

Opposition members were furious that deputies from the ruling Regions Party were voting on behalf of absent colleagues, that some spoke in Russian rather than Ukrainian and that two politicians had defected from the opposition to join pro-government ranks.

Deputies clambered on to benches to fight and to jump on to opponents. They also rushed to block the chamber’s main rostrum to stop voting taking place. Mr Azarov (64) however secured 252 votes in the 450-seat chamber to be re-elected as prime minister.

“The government will . . . cut unemployment and boost credit,” said Mr Azarov, adding that Ukraine “must find compromise on co-operation with the IMF” after the lender froze financing for the country in early 2011.

The Regions Party and their communist allies face a challenge from a broad opposition movement spearheaded by the party of jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, and including nationalists and a group led by world heavyweight boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko.

“I understand that many people want Klitschko to launch an offensive but . . . the fists of a world champion are considered nuclear weapons,” Mr Klitschko joked of the brawls.