Ukraine parliament features brawls, boxer, and naked protesters
Think the fiscal cliff talks in the United States are tough? Ukraine’s parliament has been engaged in two days of all-out brawls, which have also featured a boxing champ and naked protesters.
A pro wrestling style fight started on Wednesday between members of President Viktor Yanukovych’s party and the opposition in parliament. It continued on Thursday as two men tried to change their party affiliation.
Pro boxer Vitali Klitschko made a cameo appearance on camera on Wednesday, and security forces had to divert naked women from storming the House floor.
Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, the leader of the main opposition party, is a woman, and she is currently jailed after losing the 2010 election to Yanukovych.
The protesters were members of the group Femen, and they were arrested after they stripped off their clothes in below-freezing weather and charged the parliament building.
Images from Wednesday and Thursday showed a scene that resembled a WWE pay-per-view event, with parliament members using full nelsons, choke holds and other moves familiar to American wrestling fans.
Link: Brawl images from NBC
On Thursday, the fight over control of the floor again exploded, as members fought on the assembly floor.
Among the new members of the opposition faction is Klitschko, who was on the floor during the skirmishes, but not throwing punches.
Pictures show a well-dressed Klitschko smiling, and he later joked about the fighting to reporters.
Klitschko is the head of the Punch party (yes, there is a Punch party) and he stood back from the fray.
Volodymyr Rybak was named as speaker on Thursday, but only after most of the parliament members brawled on camera.
Link: Watch video from AP
The country is deeply divided between factions that support ethnic Ukrainians (who want closer ties to Western Europe) and ethnic Russians (who want political ties to Russia).
The groups also couldn’t agree on parliamentary procedures on Thursday.
Ukraine has a history of violence in its parliament. Fights are common and one brawl in 2010 sent six deputies to the hospital with concussions.
And while the lack of civility in Ukraine may seem shocking to Americans, other parliaments around the world have been involved in physical fights in recent years.
There are dozens of parliament fight videos on YouTube and one person even has a blog dedicated to brawl highlights at http://parliamentfights.wordpress.com/.
Today, it’s very rare for violence to break out in the United States House of Representatives and in the Senate.
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But fights did happen in the 1800s as the nation headed toward Civil War.
In 1856, a member of the House, Preston Brooks, attacked Senator Charles Sumner with a cane and nearly killed him. The incident enraged Sumner’s supporters in the North.
The biggest brawl in Congressional history took place in 1958, when 50 members of the House of Representatives fought on the floor, after a debate about admitting Kansas as a free state became violent.
That fight ended when two brawlers ripped the wig of the head of a representative from Mississippi, which startled the fighting politicians.