Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Fists Fly Inside Russian Parliament

Nationalist politician brawls with leftist colleague

MOSCOW (AP) Ultra-rightwing legislator Vladimir Zhirinovsky got into a fist-swinging brawl inside parliament today in an incident that highlighted his frustration at the dominant role of pro-Kremlin forces in Russia.

In chaotic scenes in the chamber broadcast throughout the day on national television, Zhirinovsky, leader of Russia's Liberal Democratic party and deputy speaker of the parliament, spat at a legislator from the leftist Rodina party.

The legislator, Andrei Savyolov, and Zhirinovsky lunged at each other with their fists and others joined in the fight.

Zhirinovsky grabbed his opponent by his hair, but he was wrestled to the ground and struck repeatedly.

'Where's that bastard?' Zhirinovsky said as other legislators struggled to separate the two men.

Boris Gryzlov, speaker of the State Duma, Russia's lower house, said the general prosecutor's office should assess who was responsible for the brawl after the Rodina party demanded Zhirinovsky be stripped of his position as deputy speaker.

Legislators later voted 373 to 35 to bar Zhirinovsky from addressing the chamber for a month as an immediate penalty, with his position in the parliament to be the subject of an investigation.

The fight broke out as Zhirinovsky protested weekend regional parliamentary elections in Yamalo-Nenets in Western Siberia in which his party scored disappointingly, behind Rodina and the Communists. The United Russia party, which supports President Vladimir Putin, came out on top with more than 60 per cent of the vote, Interfax news agency reported.

Zhirinovsky's party has generally toed the Kremlin line despite his occasionally provocative statements and antics that have earned him the title of the clown of Russian politics.