A parliamentary session in Romania was suspended Monday after the leader of a nationalist group grabbed the energy minister and struck him on the back while he was addressing lawmakers.
Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca called the incident „a reprehensible gesture” designed to „incite violence.”
Energy Minister Virgil Popescu was speaking about the energy crisis and price subsidies offered by the government. He said price hikes were due to „our neighbor to the east,” referring to Russia.
His initial criticism was reserved for the Save Romanian Union which left the ruling coalition in September and is now in opposition
After 3 ½ minutes, he was interrupted by the leader of the nationalist Alliance for the Unity of Romanians (AUR), George Simion.
The irritated minister told Mr Simion to “go to Mr. Putin (Russian president Vladimir Putin) and get the price of gas reduced.”
The party leader then came up to the stage where the minister was speaking, grabbed him and yelled: “You’re a thief.”
The speaker who was presiding over the session asked him to leave.
„I ask security to remove Mr Simion. Mr Simion, take your hands off the minister!”, said Daniel Suciu, Social Democrat lawmaker who was in charge of the session.
„To Russia, the lot of you!” the energy minister said after the altercation.
George Simion responded, yelling: “You’re a thief!”. „You’re stupid,” the minister retorted.
Premier Ciuca said the incident was the latest in „a worrying series of actions that incite violence, that go well beyond the limits of free speech in politics,” News.ro reported.
Mr Popescu said that he had filed a criminal complaint following the incident. „I won’t feed hate with hate! But I think the AUR leader should be sanctioned for what he did today,” he said, News.ro reported.
The anti-establishment party which came fourth in 2020 parliamentary elections is currently in second place in opinion polls. It made headlines recently when it called the Holocaust “a minor subject.”
The meeting was then suspended. „It’s the first time in parliamentary history that a minister has been physically assaulted while speaking. In such a case, I cannot lead this session. I call for a meeting of party leaders. I declare it suspended.”
The session later resumed and Mr. Simion addressed lawmakers saying he didn’t regret calling the minister „a thief.”
The session was then finally closed for the day. „I declare one of the ugliest sessions ever closed,” Mr Suciu said.