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Ukraine's opposition blocks parliament doors

Ukraine's opposition blocks parliament doors

Opposition deputies in Ukraine's notoriously unruly parliament blocked access to the chamber in a second protest this week against austerity measures, forcing Friday's session to be canceled altogether.
Clashes among members of the Verkhovna Rada frequently go beyond rhetoric, and this week has been no exception. On Tuesday, lawmakers kicked and punched each other as opposition deputies tried to seize control of the speaker's podium. Dissenters sometimes break the electronic vote-tallying machine, and in a session this spring the parliament speaker stood shielded by umbrellas as opponents threw eggs and smoke bombs.
On Friday, the opposition members used chairs to block the chamber doors, until the few lawmakers who were already inside the hall left. A new session will be held on Tuesday.
The action was staged to protest moves by President Viktor Yanukovych's government to double household gas prices and raise women's retirement age from 55 to 60 _ both conditions for a $15 million loan from the International Monetary Fund.
Those protesting included deputies in the bloc of Western-oriented former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who lost this year's presidential election to Yanukovych and claimed it was rigged.
Parliament speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn accused Friday's protesters of trying to carry on that election dispute, saying the protest was "to a large extent ... a continuation of the presidential campaign," according to UNIAN news agency.
Tymoshenko's parliamentary faction vowed protests will continue.
"Our faction is very firm. The forms of protest will be various _ from blocking parliament to other methods," bloc leader Ivan Kyrylenko said.
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Associated Press Writer Jim Heintz in Moscow contributed to this report.