Last week, a session of the Ukrainian parliament turned violent after Poroshenko Bloc MP Oleh Barna attempted to remove Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk from the podium during a speech, literally picking him and trying to carry him off the stage, flowers in hand. The spectacle quickly degenerated into a full-scale fistfight, and, as expected, become the subject of hilarious internet memes.
Then, on Wednesday, Odessa Govenor Mikheil Saakashvili got a glass of water thrown in his face by Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, the two men shouting recriminations in one another's direction over corruption allegations.
That incident led to its own series of memes and jokes.
Russian TV having a field day with the Saakashvili / Avakov spat, also noting Poroshenko reaction in this screengrab pic.twitter.com/c5ZRYPImvU— Shaun Walker (@shaunwalker7) 16 декабря 2015
But not everyone is laughing, least of all Kiev's ostensible allies in Washington.
In his editorial for Bloomberg View, contributor Leonid Bershidsky lamented that, having ignored Vice President Joe Biden's request that Ukraine's political leaders "play nice," the "quiet war between the teams of Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and President Petro Poroshenko" has only intensified, "turn[ing] "publically and comically violent."
According to Bershidsky, a liberal Russian journalist who firmly supported Ukraine's Maidan revolution, the situation is becoming dangerously reminiscent of the failures "of Ukraine's previous attempt to break with Russia's dominance and embark on a European path."
"From 2005 to 2010," the journalist recalled, "then President Viktor Yushchenko's faction clashed repeatedly with that of Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, rampant corruption undermined the economy and reforms proved fake. This led to the election of President Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted last year in a bloody uprising."
The journalist recalled that Vice-President Biden, who graced Kiev with a visit earlier this month, explicitly "warned Poroshenko that Ukraine's Western allies want to avoid the political upheaval that Yatsenyuk's firing would entail."
If Poroshenko loses the support of the prime minister and his allies, the ruling coalition will collapse, paving the way for early parliamentary elections. This, Bershidsky warns, threatens to "sideline reforms, sorely testing the patience of impoverished and often armed voters."
With the president trying, and failing, to put the emerging scandal to bed, the conflict between the political forces of the Maidan has since spun further out of control.
On Monday, Interior Minister Avakov, a Yatsenyuk ally, accused Saakashvili, the Poroshenko-appointed governor of Odessa, of attempting to sell a chemical plant to a Russian businessman. This, Bershidsky hinted, was a direct response to Saakashvili's accusations earlier this month that the prime minister was involved "in financial schemes that, he claimed, drained $5 billion a year from Ukraine's coffers."
Presidential spokesman Svatoslav Tsegolko refused to release the video of the incident (which Avakov released later anyway), on the grounds that "such street-style altercations disgrace the country." Yolodymyr Omelyan, a deputy-transport minister who resigned last week, echoed his embarrassment, saying that "what is going on is truly a shame, a disgrace, a paucity of both spirit and ideas. I'd resign again if I could."
Lamenting the political system's degeneration into shouting matches, fistfights and other forms of political slapstick, Bershidsky warned that now "bureaucrats drafted from the private sector after Ukraine's 'Revolution of Dignity' are probably tempted to leave, too."
Furthermore, Poroshenko, according to the journalist, is caught in a vice, incapable of openly supporting either Yatsenyuk or Saakashvili.
"If he openly backs Yatsenyuk, Saakashvili may revolt and challenge him. The explosive Georgian is popular in Ukraine, and has more political experience…Siding with the Odessa governor, though, would mean ousting Yatsenyuk, triggering an early election and irritating the US, where Yatsenyuk and [Finance Minister and US citizen Natalie] Jaresko are popular figures."
Ultimately, the journalist warns, "if this circus continues, another revolt could break out," with Kiev's "primitive aggression and venality" threatening to "quickly become too much [for the Ukrainian people] to endure."