6 Ukrainian lawmakers claim they were barred from council hall and beaten

The pro-Russian Party of Regions claimed that guards tried to prevent its lawmakers from attending a session of the Dnipropetrovsky regional council during which the 100-member council was scheduled to elect its leader - a contest between the Party of Regions and President Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine party.

The lawmakers, together with party members from the regional council, pushed their way through, breaking windows and doors, said Oleh Tsaryov, a Party of Regions official, the AP reports.

The Party of Regions, which dominates in Ukraine's Russian-speaking east, accused the government of trying to prevent it from deciding who becomes the next council leader. Party of Regions has 39 seats on the council, while Our Ukraine has eight. The council session was continuing Friday.

Regional police spokesman Yevhen Levantsov said police had no information about the incident. Tamara Andrushchak, a spokeswoman for the council, denied that bodyguards stopped anyone from entering or that anyone had been beaten.

Party of Regions emerged as the strongest party in Ukraine after the March parliamentary elections, but it failed to win enough seats to take control of the national parliament.

In its traditional base in eastern Ukraine, the party won sweeping victories in many regional and city councils. It has been edged out of talks on forming a coalition government at the national level by the former Orange Revolution allies, making the party's regional seats all the more important.