The speaker of Ukraine’s parliament huddled under umbrellas as eggs rained down and smoke bombs filled the chamber with an acrid cloud. Then the lawmakers attacked each other, punching and brawling in the aisles. The chaos erupted Tuesday as parliament approved a treaty allowing Russia to extend the lease on a naval base in a Ukrainian port on the Black Sea until 2042 – a move bitterly opposed by pro-Western lawmakers. Ukraine would get cheap natural gas from Russia in exchange.

The speaker of Ukraine’s parliament huddled under umbrellas as eggs rained down and smoke bombs filled the chamber with an acrid cloud. Then the lawmakers attacked each other, punching and brawling in the aisles.

The chaos erupted Tuesday as parliament approved a treaty allowing Russia to extend the lease on a naval base in a Ukrainian port on the Black Sea until 2042 – a move bitterly opposed by pro-Western lawmakers. Ukraine would get cheap natural gas from Russia in exchange.

 

Ukrainian nationalists who resented Moscow’s long dominance of their land regarded the Russian fleet’s presence as tantamount to military occupation. Former President Viktor Yushchenko had vowed that the fleet’s lease of the port would not be renewed when it expired in 2017.

 

As parliament speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn opened Tuesday’s legislative session, opposition members threw eggs at him, forcing him to preside behind two black umbrellas held by aides.

 

Opposition lawmakers draped a huge Ukrainian flag over their seats, a signal they would abstain from voting.

 

Lytvyn defiantly forged ahead amid the falling eggs, calling lawmakers to the stand to make their case on the Black Sea Fleet deal.

 

About seven minutes into the session, a smoke bomb went off underneath the draped flag and another was hurled from the back of the gallery. The chamber filled with an acrid cloud as smoke alarms went off – unprecedented scenes in the parliament.

The lawmakers’ bickering deteriorated into members throwing punches and grappling during the nationally televised session. The opposition bloc Our Ukraine-People’s Self-Defense said one of its lawmakers was hospitalized with a concussion after fighting with Yanukovych’s party.

 

Outside, riot police kept back crowds of opposition supporters trying to get closer to the parliament building, which was surrounded by Yanukovych supporters. Passions among the thousands of protesters became heated after the vote, but they quickly simmered down. No arrests were reported.

 

The base extension passed with 236 votes in the 450-member parliament.

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