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Ukraine's legislature keeps devolving into fistfights. Here's why.

A brawl on the floor of the Ukrainian legislature on July 23, 2014
A brawl on the floor of the Ukrainian legislature on July 23, 2014
pacific Press/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

In my in-depth look at Ukraine's dysfunctional legislature, the Verkhovna Rada, I mentioned that arguments in the body periodically devolve into fistfights. It turns out, this isn't just random violence. Such scuffles have become a de facto part of the legislative process in Ukraine, something like the American filibuster.

Partly, these fights occur because Ukrainian politics is so bitter and polarized in general. But Josh Black points out a more specific reason: under the de facto rules of the legislative body, the opposition can and often does bring parliamentary business to a halt by physically blocking access to the speaker's podium.

You frequently see references to this in news stories about these fights. Opposition members "blocked the speaker's podium and hung signs reading "stop the political repressions'" in 2010. In 2012, opposition leaders "tried physically to prevent a vote on Volodymyr Rybak's nomination." From February 5 to 22, 2013, "the parliament’s work was suspended for more than two weeks as the opposition blocked the rostrum demanding to ensure that every lawmaker votes individually. On March 5, opposition factions in the Ukrainian parliament blocked the rostrum in protest against plans to dismiss lawmaker Serhiy Vlasenko."

This is Ukraine's version of a filibuster. And in Ukraine's not-very-genteel legislature, it sometimes leads to physical violence.

The most recent such fight broke out earlier this week during a debate over sending more troops to fight pro-Russian separatists in the east:

But this was far from the first time this happened...

April 2014

February 2014, in the midst of Ukraine's revolution

January 2014

March 2013

December 2012

May 2012

December 2010

November 2008