KIEV, March 5 (RIA Novosti) - Opposition factions in the Ukrainian parliament blocked the speaker’s rostrum on Tuesday in protest against plans to oust lawyer MP Serhiy Vlasenko, who heads a group in defense of jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
Lawmakers from Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party, Vitali Klitschko’s UDAR and the nationalist Svoboda (Freedom) party unfolded a banner carrying a likeness of President Viktor Yanukovych with a crown on his head, reading “Stop the Dictatorship!”
They also brought in a cardboard effigy of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and installed it in the government box.
World heavyweight boxing champion Klitschko told reporters opposition MPs will do all they can to ensure Vlasenko keeps his mandate.
“I am sure we'll be able to deal with that,” he said.
Last week, Supreme Rada Speaker Volodymyr Rybak filed a petition at Ukraine’s Supreme Administrative Court on behalf of the parliamentary credentials committee, requesting Vlasenko be stripped of his deputy’s mandate.
The opposition believes the committee’s resolution was falsified and that it did not even meet to consider the issue.
According to Ukrainian law, an MP’s mandate may also be terminated by a court if he or she continues to engage in other than parliamentary activity, but the opposition says Vlasenko’s legal license was annulled and he is no longer engaged in any extra-parliamentary activity.
Tymoshenko, once the main political opponent of President Viktor Yanukovych, was sentenced in October 2011 to seven years in prison for abuse of office after negotiating an allegedly unfavorable gas deal between Russia and Ukraine in January 2009.
In mid-January Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka said Tymoshenko was officially notified that she is a suspect in the 1996 killing of Ukrainian businessman and lawmaker Yevhen Shcherban. She faces life in prison if convicted of that crime.