Lawmakers scuffled and wrestled with one another Tuesday as Ukraine's parliament voted on a series of bills needed for entry to the World Trade Organization - the second such bout of violence to mar debate over the crucial legislation.
Parliament managed to pass one bill spelling out changes to food sanitation rules before Communists and pro-government lawmakers began shoving each other and fighting while Economics Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk struggled to speak. Communists also sounded loud, wailing sirens to drown out the debate before the 450-member parliament broke for recess.
Despite Communists attempts to block debate, lawmakers later passed three more bills in the first of three required votes; two decreasing export duties of scrap metal and cattle, and the third changing customs regulations. Work on four more bills was postponed after parliament ended work for the day, the AP reports.
President Viktor Yushchenko has made WTO membership an important goal for the country, which needs foreign investment to boost its sluggish economy.
But parliament has so far adopted only half of the required 14-bill package, amid opposition from Communists who fear membership will hurt Ukrainian farmers and industry.
Yatsenyuk said that failure to adopt the bills "will not hurt the WTO ... it will hurt Ukraine," but he expressed hope that the government and lawmakers will settle the most disputed issues, including banking regulations.
Some experts believe that Ukraine is in a rush to join because of fears that Russia will win WTO membership earlier and then impose new conditions on Ukraine, delaying Kiev's admission.
Tuesday's fight was at least the second time that violence has broken out during deliberations over the WTO legislation. Communists and pro-government lawmakers brawled during debate in July.