The speaker of Ukraine's parliament on Friday called for the chamber to be disbanded and early elections held after deputies got into an ugly brawl over a proposed new language law.
Members of President Viktor Yanukovych's party came to blows on Thursday with lawmakers who opposed legislation expanding the use of the Russian language in courts and hospitals in the country's eastern regions that have close ties to Moscow.
Yanukovych's Regions Party relies on the industrial east for support and has promoted the law ahead of legislative elections scheduled for the end of October.
But Verkhovna Rada Chairman Volodymyr Lytvyn -- a moderate who on Thursday said he opposed the new bill -- said the ugly fight between lawmakers showed they could no longer work together and proposed disbanding the chamber.
"There is only one conclusion that can be drawn from yesterday's events -- the Verkhovna Rada and Ukrainian parliamentarism are completely ruined," Lytvyn told reporters.
Parliament remained deadlocked on Friday as lawmakers opposed to the law -- many of them supporters of the jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko -- halted hearings by blocking access to the Rada rostrum.
Lytvyn said lawmakers refused to discuss his call for an early vote in preliminary hearings held before Friday's session officially opened.
The language issue has divided Ukraine for much of its post-Soviet era.
The mostly Russian-speaking eastern half of the country represents the industrial base of Ukraine that has close cultural and political ties with its giant eastern neighbor.
The Ukrainian-speaking west is traditionally more nationalist and served as the base of support for the 2004 pro-democracy Orange Revolution leader Tymoshenko and her allies.
Tensions in Ukraine have been high since the arrest and October jailing for seven years of Tymoshenko on controversial charges that EU leaders and her supporters view as politically motivated.
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