Ukraine’s Parliament Stages Championship Fight, Reminding World It’s Still Ukraine

Bang-up job, guys.

Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, reached a new achievement in dysfunction yesterday by descending into a literal brawl. Oleh Barna, a member of President Petro Poroshenko’s eponymously-titled political party (the “Petro Poroshenko Bloc,” a naming convention sadly too common here, though they added back in the party’s old name of “Solidarity” for Byzantine reasons), a man not usually known for open combat, approached current Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk bearing a bouquet of roses.

Barna was not about to ask Yatsenyuk on a date, though a hug was apparently coming.

Yatsenyuk was in the middle of a speech explaining why his government should not be removed from power when Barna went ahead and physically removed the Prime Minister from the speaker’s rostrum. As is common in these affairs, both men had seconds and thirds and so on, and naturally felt they should join the fun, and so a brief but spirited and highly physical debate on manners began.

This is, amazingly, not the worst part of this story.

Yatsenyuk is the head of People’s Front, the second-largest party in Parliament. (People’s Front is a descendant of Yulia Tymoshenko’s Fatherland party, a descent more or less made inevitable when Fatherland continued to place Tymoshenko’s interests above all others, thereby pitting her never-ending ambition against her former lieutenant’s. This is actually an incredibly common turn of events in Ukrainian politics.) People’s Front, with the Petro Poroshenko Bloc, are part of the same, governing coalition in Ukraine. In other words, Barna decided to pile-drive his own Prime Minister.

One supposes we should be lucky that Vitali Klitschko, current Mayor of Kyiv, former head of UDAR (one of the members of the old opposition when Viktor Yanukovych was President, a party Klitschko folded into Petro Poroshenko Bloc so he could become Mayor), and former world heavyweight boxing champion, didn’t head down to join the scrum.

Ukraine, today, is a mess. Yanukovych — often called “Moscow backed” because Western journalists are a herd of morons — had laid out and pushed through, over enormous opposition from the then-opposition, a series of vital reform packages Ukraine needed. Whatever his personal failings, he had laid out a reform agenda that mattered and pushed it through. His successors have promised even greater reforms and accomplished basically nothing — indeed, this is part of why Yatsenyuk’s government is in such danger.

American readers will appreciate this: It has become so bad in Ukraine’s Parliament, so utterly paralyzed and useless, that U.S. Vice President Joe Biden gave a personal address to the Rada, all but begging them to be organized, efficient, and most importantly, to stop endless political squabbling and just accomplish something, because the creditors are at the gates and winter is coming.

And Biden’s speech was arguably the most efficient use of words that body has seen in over a year.

The promises of the Maidan movement and the events that followed were always more for foreign than domestic consumption; in effect, all it accomplished was to accelerate the traditional switch of government and opposition, so a new group could incompetently steal from and run Ukraine into the ground. With a hungry Russia on its borders and a West no longer interested in saving Kyiv from itself, the time has come to stop the childishness and show that this country can act like a grown-up.

Another brawl is much more likely than that.

Image Copyright Wikimedia Commons