KIEV A parliamentary hearing on Ukraine's budget was suspended for several hours on Tuesday after opposition deputies alleged that a deputy finance minister presenting the budget report was drunk.
Anatoly Myarkovsky, first deputy finance minister, spoke for 10 minutes on the government's budget performance in 2012.
But when questions were invited, deputies from Ukraine's rowdy opposition called out "He's drunk". One shouted: "Anyone within five meters can tell he reeks like someone who has been drinking vodka. Mr. Speaker, go and sniff for yourself."
Speaker Volodymyr Rybak declined, saying it was not for him to check on the behavior of officials or deputies. But he suspended the budget hearing to allow time to clarify whether Myarkovsky had been under the influence of alcohol or not.
Myarkovsky himself left the chamber as Rybak was speaking. There was no formal word from his office.
When proceedings resumed several hours later, Finance Minister Yuri Kolobov told deputies that Myarkovsky was receiving hospital treatment.
"He is undergoing a medical examination. He will inform you himself later about his condition," Kolobov said.
A deputy from the ruling Regions party, Volodymyr Makeyenko, leapt to Myarkovsky's defence.
"There wasn't any smell of alcohol coming from the deputy minister. I have known him for 20 years and he's a responsible person. These allegations are just an attempt by the opposition to undermine (parliamentary) proceedings," he told reporters.
Ukraine's parliament, where the Regions party holds a small majority against a boisterous opposition which is seeking the release of ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko from jail, is often a theatre for tussles and fist-fights among deputies.
(Writing By Richard Balmforth; Editing by Gareth Jones)