A brawl in Parliament? Crotches being handled? Suspicion and disagreement? Ukraine has a lot of work to do if it is to convince the West that all is fine

 

When countries try to outdo each other, one would hope it would be in the fields of economics or culture.  But following violent disturbances in the Kosovan Parliament in recent weeks and months, a fellow Eastern European state, Ukraine, stole back the crown for legislature uproar.  Ukraine has form when it comes to physical altercations among assembled lawmakers, and this latest one has left all sides rueing the incident.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the Ukrainian Prime Minister, was summarising and defending the efforts of his government, led by his People’s Front party, to weed out the rampant corruption that still afflicts Ukraine, even after the downfall of former President Viktor Yanukovych.  Outside Parliament, around 1,000 protesters were demanding the removal of Yatsenyuk for his clashes with the party of the current President and chocolate tycoon, Petro Poroshenko — the appropriately named Petro Poroshenko Bloc ‘Solidarity’ (to distinguish it from the more famous Polish Solidarity).  Such political manoeuvring in former communist-ruled countries usually comes with rent-a-mob activists to lend credence through the media that there is a popular groundswell against their bête noire, but little can the demonstrators have realised how Yatsenyuk would actually be removed.

As he stood at the podium, the Prime Minister was approached by a deputy of the President’s party, Oleh Barna, who gripped a bouquet of roses.  Rather than say it with flowers, Barna handed over the floral bunch to a surprised Yatsenyuk before proceeding to hoist the Prime Minister up in the air by the crotch and drag him away from the podium.  Not relinquishing his ‘gift’, Yatsenyuk also clung on to the podium while his legs flailed, like a hapless victim of a school bully who wants to dispense a wedgie.  Help arrived from the Prime Minister’s own party (one deputy putting Barna in a headlock) and the Parliament’s security personnel, but tempers were so heated that it descended into a mass brawl with punches thrown and Barna’s face grabbed.

Immediately prior to the incident Yatsenyuk had insinuated that as prosecutors — and not his government — pursue corruption cases and as the President appoints the prosecutor general, the political responsibility for the high levels of corruption lies with Poroshenko.  One might have assumed that it was this that infuriated Barna except the possession of flowers determines that this was a premeditated stunt.  After refusing to let go of the podium architecture, whether Yatsenyuk’s authority remains in tact after this embarrassment is moot.  Nevertheless, the leader of the presidential Bloc, Yuriy Lutsenko, apologised on behalf of his party to the Prime Minister, going on to say on his Facebook page that the flowers and the manhandling would probably increase the chances of Yatsenyuk remaining in position, implying public sympathy, even though he, Lutsenko, supports calls for the Prime Minister’s resignation.

One person who is happy, however, is Vladimir Putin, the Russian President.  It was divisions and bickering between the successful Orange Revolution leaders, President Viktor Yushchenko  and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, that allowed the authoritarian Yanukovych a way back into power in 2010 after being blocked in 2004 by the Orange Revolution demonstrations.  A creature of the Kremlin, Yanukovych fled — like the Emperor Nero — rather than be overthrown in a coup d’etat; his security service snipers had been shooting unarmed protesters and he was in complete, even if bloody, control, but he lost his nerve and escaped into exile.  That set in motion the chain of events that led to the Russian annexation of Crimea and the fostering and armed support of rebellions in the east of Ukraine by obscure figures even more beholden to the Kremlin.

Since then mutual loathing has set in for both sides as Putin wages economic warfare on Ukraine.  Recently all flights and overflights by airline carriers registered in each country have been banned from the respective airspaces.  The corruption issue is burning in Ukraine especially with the assistance evaporating from Russia. Kiev now has to persuade Western creditors that it is a trustworthy place to where they can grant loans and of course get their money back (with interest).

The Russian economy itself is in dire straits from Western sanctions over its actions in Ukraine. The counterproductive counter-sanctions, the drive for rearmament, skyrocketing corruption and general maladministration have all become the main concerns.  Yet Putin raises the stakes where he can.  After continual prodding by the Russian bear of the Turkish grey wolf, the latter turned round and scratched the bear on the nose, shooting down a Russian jet that entered its airspace (the third such violation since Russia sent its own air force to Syria).  On the 12th of December, the Russian navy (operating from Syria) became a historical re-enactment society, firing shots at a Turkish trawler, 111 years after their naval forebears (inadvertently) bombarded Yorkshire trawlers in the North Sea.  So with trouble mounting on all sides, it is very welcome for Putin that the pro-Western forces in Ukraine have fallen out with each other — it’s a different cast but the same dissension.