Ukraine ratifies controversial naval deal with Russia
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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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