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KIEV, July 4 (Itar-Tass) —— The reaction of the parliamentary opposition to the passage of the language law shows that it “challenges the right of a half of the Ukrainian population to speak their native language”, Ukrainian Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov said.
“You can judge about the quality of our opposition from the law on regional languages. It’s a litmus test for our opposition: it denies the right of a half of the Ukrainian population to speak their native tongue,” Azarov said at a meeting with a delegation of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly on Wednesday, July 4.
According to the prime minister, the law is “absolutely European” and allows members of all ethnic groups to speak their native language.
On July 3, the Verkhovna Rada passed the Law “On the Basic Principles of State Language Policy” that significantly broadens the right to ethnic minorities, while preserving the status of Ukrainian as the only official language in Ukraine.
According to the document, in a region where an ethnic minority makes up more than 10 percent of the population, its language will have a special status.
After the law has entered into force, Russian will get the status of regional language in 13 of 27 Ukrainian regions.
Following the passage of the law, the opposition announced an open-ended protect across the country, demanding that the law be cancelled. Protesters also set up a picket and said they would continue it until the law “ceases to exist as a threat to the Ukrainian language”.
They plan to move towards the parliament building on Thursday morning, July 5.
Passions are flying high in the western regions of Ukraine where the opposition is ready to resort to extreme measures such as armed resistance. It has threatened to block major highways and railway routes, set up a tent city in the centre of Kiev and send appeals to all international organisations and countries, explaining how the law is dangerous for the sovereignty of Ukraine.
The opposition is making arrangements for taking people to Kiev on July 9 to participate in mass protests.
Opposition party Front Zmin leader Arseny Yatsenyuk said Parliament Speaker Vladimir Litvin would not sign the law and it would have to go through a new voting procedure.
In this case the opposition will insist on a roll-call vote and the law will not get the required number of votes.
Ukraine has the world's largest Russian-language community. More than 8.2 million people consider themselves Russian, and almost 15 million people say Russian is their native language.