Ukrainian minister, governor in "street-style" spat

AP News
Posted: Dec 15, 2015 6:46 AM

MOSCOW (AP) — The spokesman for Ukraine's president on Tuesday upbraided the country's interior minister and the Odessa governor for a water-throwing and insult-laced clash during a meeting of the National Reform Council.

At the Monday meeting, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov challenged Mikheil Saakashvili, the former Georgian president who now heads the Odessa region, about Saakashvili allegedly approaching a Russian tycoon about privatizing a big chemical plant.

Saakashvili "broke into hysterics ... I refrained from hitting him -- splashed water in his face," Avakov said on Facebook.

Ukrainian news reports said Saakashvili in turn accused Avakov of financing a private militia through corrupt means and demanded that video of the council session be made public.

Presidential spokesman Svyatoslav Tsegolko said on Facebook that "such street-style skirmishes shame the country."

The incident highlighted both concerns over endemic corruption and the frequently boisterous politics in Ukraine, where fistfights in the parliament are not uncommon.

In a strongly worded address to the Ukrainian parliament last week, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden called on the country's officials to take more action on corruption, which he said "eats Ukraine like cancer." The United States has worked to support Ukraine's authorities since mass protests drove the Russia-friendly president from power in February 2014.

Three days after Biden's address, the parliament erupted in a particularly spectacular brawl after a legislator from President Petro Poroshenko's party dragged Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk away from the rostrum.

Saakashvili was appointed by Poroshenko this year as governor of Odessa, one of Ukraine's most corruption-ridden regions. Saakashvili says his reform efforts have been undermined by Yatsenyuk.