(KIEV, Ukraine) — Clashes broke out Tuesday between demonstrators and police in front of Ukraine’s parliament in Kiev as deputies inside repeatedly voted down proposals to recognize a contentious World War II-era Ukrainian partisan group as national heroes.
Thousands of Svoboda nationalist party supporters rallied earlier in the capital in celebration of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, whose struggle for independence for Ukraine was tainted by its collaboration with the Nazis.
Later, masked men attacked and threw smoke grenades at lines of police outside parliament as lawmakers met inside. The Interior Ministry said 36 people were detained by police.
Svoboda said its members were not responsible for the unrest, which police said was orchestrated by a small group of people at the rally.
The unrest overshadowed the passage of laws the government hopes will contain the galloping corruption that has long hindered Ukraine’s sclerotic economy. President Petro Poroshenko urged lawmakers to keep up the fight against corruption, a problem that he equated with terrorism.
One law backed by 278 out of the 303 registered deputies creates an anti-corruption bureau to fight graft. Other approved provisions included laws to stem money-laundering and to increase corporate transparency.
Parliament also approved a new defense minister — former National Guard head Stepan Poltorak — a pressing priority as Ukraine still faces daily clashes with pro-Russian separatists in its industrial eastern regions.
A cease-fire has been in place since early September but violations are reported daily. The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said Tuesday their positions had come under rocket fire more than 30 times in the last 24 hours.
Security spokesman Col. Andrei Lysenko said seven servicemen in the east had been killed over the same time period, six of them by mines.
Much of the fighting in the east has focused on the government-held airport in the main rebel-held city of Donetsk. A rebel commander leading that assault, who identifies himself only by the nom de guerre Givi, said 27 of his fighters have been killed in the last three weeks while fighting for the airport.
Associated Press writer Mstyslav Chernov in Donetsk, Ukraine, contributed to this report.