KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — A court in Kiev is holding a hearing on Thursday on the government's request to ban the Communist Party of Ukraine.
The Justice Ministry says the party should be banned because it has supported pro-Russian rebels fighting government forces in the country's east.
In legal proceedings filed July 8, the ministry accused the party of helping provide support, including money and weapons, and of backing disputed independence referendums in eastern regions.
The hearing opened Thursday as the speaker of the parliament, Oleksandr Turchynov, declared the Communist group in parliament dissolved because its membership fell below the threshold for forming a separate faction. A law passed Tuesday gives him authority to do that.
Communist delegation head Petr Symonenko said the move "trampled on the will" of those who voted for the party.
The Communist Party came in fifth at the 2012 parliamentary election, garnering about 13 percent of the vote.
President Petro Poroshenko on a visit to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe last month was grilled about the plans to ban the Communists in Ukraine. Poroshenko said he thought parties should be barred from politics "by means of elections" rather than a straightforward ban.
He has not commented on Thursday's court hearing.