KIEV (Reuters) - The leader of Ukraine’s populist Radical Party was nearly knocked out in a punch-up in the Kiev parliament’s lobby on Thursday after he goaded a fellow deputy, accusing him of ignoring the plight of soldiers fighting in east Ukraine.
Oleh Lyashko, who came third in July’s presidential elections, staggered and appeared stunned after a heated exchange with independent deputy Oleksandr Shevchenko led to Shevchenko punching him in the head.
“Look at this pot-bellied fatty,” Lyashko said of Shevchenko shortly before he was hit. “Instead of going to the Donbass and helping our guys, people like him go to parliament and raise their hands.”
Lyashko has visited troops in Ukraine’s eastern regions or Donbass, where they have been locked in a bloody conflict with separatist pro-Russian rebels since April. More than 2,000 people have been killed in the fighting.
Earlier, Shevchenko had accused Lyashko of using these trips to boost his image.
This is not the first time Lyashko has been involved in a parliamentary brawl.
In 2011, he was throttled and pushed to the ground by former Vice-Speaker Adam Martinyuk after he accused him of hypocrisy, and on a separate occasion Martinyuk threw a glass of water in his face.
Brawls often erupt in parliament - almost always in the chamber - with deputies hitting each other with chairs, newspapers and ripping each other’s shirts off and getting bloody noses in the fights.
Reporting by Natalia Zinets; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Louise Ireland