KIEV A session of Ukraine's new parliament collapsed amid chaos on Thursday when brawls erupted among opposition deputies and those of the ruling party over the election of parliamentary officials.
Groups of deputies wrestled with each other in a mass of bodies around parliament's main rostrum after the opposition tried physically to block a vote on the ruling Party of the Regions' nomination for the position of speaker.
In equally rowdy scenes on Wednesday, opposition deputies paralysed the session by encircling the rostrum and sabotaged plans of the ruling coalition to ease Mykola Azarov into a second term as prime minister.
On Thursday, opposition deputies swarmed around the rostrum when a vote on the appointment of Vladimir Rybak, the Regions' candidate for speaker, was about to be announced, and clashed with a group of Regions deputies.
Azarov, a staid 64-year-old conservative re-nominated by President Viktor Yanukovich for a new term as prime minister, looked on bemused as deputies tussled and wrestled with each other. The session was suspended until later in the day.
The opposition, which includes deputies loyal to jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, nationalists from the far-right Svoboda and a liberal party led by boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko, accuse the ruling coalition of trying to ram through voting despite violations of parliamentary rules.
The vote on Azarov's nomination will be an early test of the support that Yanukovich, who is expected to bid for a second term as president in 2015, commands in the new chamber.
The pro-business Party of the Regions and their allies enjoyed a strong majority in the last parliament.
But though it is still the biggest single party, it lost seats in the October 28 election and faces an opposition which has been re-energised by the arrival of the Svoboda nationalists and Klitschko's UDAR (Punch) party.
(Writing By Richard Balmforth)