Parliament in Kyiv has moved to assert its authority by amending the law, as tensions rise in Ukraine’s east.
It has passed legislation envisaging long jail terms for acts against Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
Interim President Oleksandr Turchynov says ‘separatists’ taking up arms and seizing buildings will be dealt with as “terrorists and criminals”.
The man behind the new law is Serhiy Sobolev, a Member of Parliament for the ruling Batkivshchyna party.
He says there will be stiffer punishment for treason, attacking state institutions, obstructing public authorities activity and attempts to overthrow the government.
The basic penalty will be 5 to 8 years imprisonment with 15 years or a life sentence for treason, Sobolev explained.
But communist leader Petro Symonenko argued in the chamber that demonstrators’ demands should be listened to.
And he accused nationalists of setting a precedent by seizing public buildings in their protests against the former Yanukovych regime .
Two members of the Svoboda far-right party took exception to the charges, seizing him at the rostrum.
Symonenko’s party supporters rallied to his defence and a brawl broke out, with deputies from other parties joining in and trading punches.
The communists backed ex-President Viktor Yanukovych and his Regions Party through the three months leading up to him fleeing Ukraine on February 21.