Short for words: Ukrainian MPs trade punches over language bill (VIDEO)

The Ukrainian Parliament resembled a pub when a rowdy brawl broke out between opposition and pro-presidential deputies. What sparked the tussle was a moot bill that sought to grant the Russian language official status in parts of the country.

­The scuffle erupted after opposition deputies, bearing Orthodox icons and banners, took to the stand to argue against the proposed legislation, saying it was important to preserve Ukrainian unity. The ruling Party of Regions then put the bill to vote, and deputies started discussing the legislation.

But words soon turned into actions, as lawmakers started literally nudging and grappling with each other. One deputy was toppled over the stand and turned upside down. Another legislator, Mykola Petruk of the opposition Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc, was hospitalized after apparently receiving a blow to his head.

A small number of pro-opposition protesters also gathered outside the Parliament to deride the proposed legislation by waving flags, blowing horns and banging drums.

The ruling Party of Regions proposed a new piece of legislation that would allow the use of languages other than Ukrainian at state-run facilities in provinces where the majority speak a different tongue. That implies that Russian would receive official status in the east and south of the country, where many people prefer to use it in their day-to-day life. However, other minority languages, such as Romanian and Crimean Tatar, would also benefit from the legislation.  

The opposition, which includes the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc and the nationalist Our Ukraine-People’s Self Defense Bloc, argued that the law would divide Ukraine ahead of parliamentary elections this fall. It also stressed that the people were not ready for such changes.

The Ukrainian Parliament is notorious for being the scene of regular brawls between pro-government and opposition parties.