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Ultra nationalists try to upset city council meeting over language law

August 20, 2012, 17:46 UTC+3

On July 3, the parliament passed the law, which gives the status of regional to the Russian language in 13 of 27 Ukrainian regions

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KHARKOV, August 20 (Itar-Tass) — About a hundred opponents of the Russian language made an attempt to storm the City Council building in Kharkov on Monday, August 20.

Supporters of the Ukrainian language, mainly activists from the ultra nationalist organisation Svoboda (Freedom) and the Our Ukraine and Batkivshchina (Fatherland) parties rallied in the morning, chanting “Kharkov for Ukrainian!” and “Away with the Gang!” and then decided to storm the entrance doors in the City Council building, where the city legislature convened at 13:00 Moscow time. Police stopped the storm and prevent the activists from entering the building.

Kharkov’s nationalists followed suit of their colleagues in Sumy, where several hundred ultra nationalists from Freedom seized the conference hall last Friday, August 17, upsetting the meeting of the regional council and preventing its members from discussing the language issue.

However lawyers say that protests and language discussions are emotional events because the language law has entered into force and is effective nationwide. For a language to become a regional one, the number of people who speak it in any one area should be at least 10 percent of its population.

Krasny Luch, Odessa and Sevastopol city councils and the Donetsk, Dnepropetrovsk, Zaporozgye and Kherson regional council have already given the status of regional to the Russian language.

On July 3, the parliament passed the law, which gives the status of regional to the Russian language in 13 of 27 Ukrainian regions.

The law keeps Ukrainian as the only official language in the country but broadens the rights of the languages of ethnic minorities. It says that in a region that is home to more than 10 percent of an ethnic minority, its language will have special status.

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.

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