thursday, 9 august of 2012

Ukraine president passes Russian language bill

Russian language bill

Ukraine president passes Russian language bill

Viktor Yanukovych makes Russian the official language in parts of the country despite street protests in capital.

Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych on Wednesday signed into law a bill making Russian the official language in parts of the former Soviet republic, angering opponents who warn it risks splitting it in two.

The opposition, which has united to fight Yanukovych's Party of the Regions in an October 28 election, also cried foul after election authorities refused to allow jailed ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko to run in the vote.

A statement by the united opposition Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) said her exclusion by the central election commission had been carried out on Yanukovych's direct instructions and amounted to "a violation of the rights of millions of our fellow citizens who support Yulia Tymoshenko".

Yanukovych's party rushed the language bill through parliament last month in what opponents saw as an attempt to rally flagging public support in Russian-speaking regions ahead of the October vote.

The move led to street protests in the capital Kiev and brawls in parliament as the opposition, which fears it will lead to the status of Ukrainian as the state language being eroded, fought to block it.

A statement by the presidential administration said Yanukovych had instructed his government to take the necessary steps to adopt local legislation to take account of the new law.

Opposition politicians, including Tymoshenko and one-time foreign minister Arseny Yatseniuk whose two parties have united to fight the election together, have described the bill as a "crime against the state" which could set citizens at each other's throats.

"Yanukovych has managed to do everything that the Russian emperors and the Soviet general secretaries could not do. He has passed a death sentence on the Ukrainian language," Oleg Medvedev, an opposition strategist, said.

Yanukovych, himself a mother tongue Russian-speaker, has made few public comments on the issue.

But his popularity would have taken a hard knock in his eastern Ukraine power base if he had failed to sign it into law.

While Ukrainian is the country's only state language, the bill will make Russian an official regional language in predominantly Russian-speaking areas in the industrialised east and southern regions such as Crimea where Russia's Black Sea fleet is based.

(Published by The Guardian - August 8, 2012)

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