Despite optimistic statements by representatives of the pro-government majority who said that the Ukrainian parliament would open its second session on Wednesday, the parliament's work remains blocked by the opposition.
As of Wednesday noon, the parliament's rostrum and presidium were still blocked by dozens of opposition MPs while members of the majority were trying to dissuade them. Members of the opposition factions have been blocking the presidium and rostrum since the 5th of February, when the parliament's second session was scheduled to open. The opposition protests against the practice of the so-called "multiple vote" with the voting cards of absent MPs, and demands that each MP vote individually, as required by the Constitution and the Parliament Regulations. Prime Minister Mykola Azarov slammed the opposition, saying that the protracted blocking of the parliament's work was keeping the country hostage to political ambitions and squabbles and hampering its economic development and European integration. "The opposition has turned a deaf ear on the majority's compromise proposals and on the European Union's call for constructive lawmaking work as one of the preconditions for Ukraine's political association and free trade with the EU. The Ukrainian government has a plan of steps for creating proper institutional prerequisites for signing the Association Agreement, and most of the work has to be done by the parliament. As long as it is out of order, the association agreement is in jeopardy," Azarov said at the Cabinet's regular Wednesday meeting. The Cabinet also discussed the situation in the national energy sector, particularly steps to diversify sources of natural gas supply. Prime Minister Azarov said he hoped that direct supplies of natural gas from Turkmenistan at a fair price would lessen the country's critical dependence on Russian natural gas and would help find a mutually beneficial form of gas cooperation with Russia. Energy and Coal Industry Minister Eduard Stavytsky told reporters after the Cabinet's meeting that Turkmen natural gas might start flowing to Ukraine this year.