KIEV, May 24 (Itar-Tass) — Opposition parties represented in the Verkhovna Rada, the national parliament, on Thursday blocked access to the rostrum and urged their allies outside the Rada’s building “to remain there and refrain from going home”.
The oppositionists, many of them having a strong nationalistic taint, are doing their best to disrupt the adoption of changes in a bill on the fundamental provisions for language policy in Ukraine, which will enable the eight-million-strong ethnic Russian minority to use the Russian language in administrative and official sphere in the thirteen regions where the native speakers of Russia live in big compact communities.
Under the bill, Russian will get the status of a regional language in the Dnepropetrovsk, Donetsk, Zaporozhye, Lugansk, Nikolayev, Odessa, Sumym Kharkov, Kherson, Chernigov regions, the Crimea, as well as in the capital Kiev and in Sevastopol.
The same bill is supposed to give the status of regional language to Crimean Tatar in the Crimea, Hungarian in the Trans-Carpathian region, and Romanian in the Chernovtsi region.
Other ethnic minority languages will get protection in smaller administrative and territorial entities.
Opposition believes that the bill, which was initiated by the ruling Regions Party, is nothing more than a pre-election trick in order to win over the minds of voters from among the minorities.
Ukraine is due to have a parliamentary election in October.
About a thousand supporters of the opposition gathered outside the Rada’s building, using various sound-emitting devices in protest of the bill and shouting ‘Down With The Gang!’
Yaroslav Dozhdik, an MP representing Our Ukraine/People’s Self-Defense bloc said: “The agenda for today has many items, and the language problem is the last of them.”
He called on “everyone who really cares” to stay near the Rada’s building, “because that’s the only place where people will be able to see ‘heroes’ with their own eyes.
Deputy chairman of the Regions Party’s parliamentary faction, Alexander Yefremov, said earlier the bill reserves the status of a state language for Ukrainian while expanding the rights of ethnic minority languages in the places where these minorities live.
“We’ve drafted a bill that takes account of all the remarks, including the ones made by the Venice Commission, as well as the remarks and comments by our leading research institutes to that the European Charter on Regional and Minority Languages could be implemented in a civilized way,” he said.
He indicated that under provisions of the Charter, a language of the national minority can be used in documentation procedures, at official organizations and courts, and on street signs.