Ukraine ratifies controversial naval deal with Russia

Last Updated: Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - 15:58

Kiev: Fighting broke out and smoke bombs
were thrown on Tuesday as Ukraine`s parliament erupted into chaos
as it ratified a bitterly controversial deal with Russia
extending the lease of a key naval base.

The scuffles broke out after eggs were thrown at the
speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, Volodymr Lytvyn, who then took
cover behind two black umbrellas held by aides.

The first smoke bomb was then thrown from an unknown
source and the chamber filled with smoke, making it difficult
to watch proceedings. Some deputies covered their noses or put
on masks as alarms sounded.

A second smoke bomb was thrown shortly afterwards,
creating thicker smoke in the chamber as deputies nonetheless
continued their rancorous debate, a correspondent in the
chamber reported.

The deputies in the notoriously fractious parliament
were taking part in a session debating a controversial deal
last week to extend the lease on Russia`s Black Sea Fleet
naval base in Crimea until at least 2042.

The deal signed last week by Russian President Dmitry
Medvedev and his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovych had
been slammed by the pro-Western Ukrainian opposition as a
historic surrender of sovereignty.

Deputies also started fighting over a massive
Ukrainian flag in the middle of the chamber, twisting and
distorting the yellow and blue banner as smoke continued to
billow in the chamber.

Amid the chaos, some deputies tried to push on with
their business as if nothing extraordinary was taking place,
with speakers taking to the floor.

With some lawmakers shouting "Shame, Shame!", the
parliament ratified the pact with 236 lawmakers voting in
favour of ratifying the deal in the 450 seat chamber.

Meanwhile, thousands of supporters of Ukraine`s
previous pro-Western government protested today outside
parliament over the decision, shouting "Death to Traitors" and
"Crimea is Ours".

Amid a heavy security presence, supporters of
Yanukovych held a counter rally brandishing banners with
slogans like "Ukraine and Russia: Strategic Partners."

The fleet deal marked a dramatic turnaround in
Russian-Ukrainian ties after the relationship became so bad
under Yanukovych`s predecessor, the fiercely pro-Western
Viktor Yushchenko, that Moscow refused to do business with
him.

Under the deal, Russia agreed to give Ukraine a 30 per
cent discount on Russian natural gas imports estimated to be
worth USD 40 billion over 10 years.

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - 15:58

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