MPS VOTE THROUGH BILL TO GIVE RUSSIAN LANGUAGE HIGHER STATUS

05.06.12


Language protest

With supporters and opponents demonstrating outside the Ukrainian Parliament, MPs voted through the first reading of the controversial Bill which would allow Russian to be used officially, alongside Ukrainian in regions of Ukraine who choose to do so. The vote in favour, led by the Party of the Regions, with Communist party and other support, was greeted with cries of 'Shame!' by opposition MPs.

During the election campaign, President Yanukovych promised to give the Russian language higher status. The Party of the Regions says that the legislation is designed to give more rights to Russian speakers, but the oppositions says that this is a way of creating a second state language by the back door, and that it will deepen divisions in Ukraine.

Parliament had to be suspended on 24 May when debate on the bill degenerated into fights between rival factions. Demonstrators then were predominantly against the bill, but today, the Party of the Regions has organised their supporters, some of whom are carrying placards saying "Russian is our native language".

The question of language is a highly emotive issue for many Ukrainians and the timing, on the eve of Euro 2012, is unfortunate. Some Ukrainian commentators have suggested that the Russian government is putting some pressure on President Yanukovych to fulfil this particular election pledge.

For more from the BBC, click here for the story in English, and here for the BBC Ukrainian service coverage.



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