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Campaign to support Russian language widens in Ukraine

February 26, 2014, 15:24 UTC+3 LVOV
At least 40 percent of Ukrainian nationals speak Russian in their daily life
1 pages in this article
People protesting in Lviv (archive)

People protesting in Lviv (archive)

© ITAR-TASS/Vitaly Grabar

LVIV, February 26, 15:09 /ITAR-TASS/. A campaign against banning Russian as a regional language is widening in West Ukraine.

The campaign is not official. It was initiated by activists who don’t want “that dishonest people in the Ukrainian parliament use their status to split Ukraine”.

“It is not about the language. Lviv is in favor of re-election of Verkhovna Rada (the parliament), but not in favor of speculations around language and national issues,” their appeal said. Leaflets saying “I will be speaking Russian at home, at work, on transport and with friends – everywhere, on February 26, in solidarity with residents of eastern and southern regions” are pasted up in city streets and on public transport.

The Dumskaya.net website issued an appeal on Wednesday, which said “certain political forces are trying to trade on language issues in Ukraine in a situation which is already difficult and tense”. “As the residents of Western Ukraine, we don’t want to be associated with radical statements by representatives of Svoboda (nationalist party) - as not all who live in Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk or Ternopol support the ideology of that party,” Lviv residents said in the appeal. “We don’t want to forcibly inculcate the Ukrainian language and all the more to infringe on the rights of the Russian-speaking population of the east and south of Ukraine,” the appeal said. “Historically we have been and keep being a multi-cultural centre…The rights of each person irrespective of his or her nationality and language, dignity and honor - this is what we were upholding on Independence Square and what we keep upholding,” it continued.

In protest against Svoboda Party moves, the head of the Lviv city council’s department for culture, Irina Podolyak, switches to the Russian language. “I am seriously considering assuming Russian in public space. Out of principle,” she said, adding that nothing could justify the damage that some representatives of the nationalist party were inflicting on the country by their ‘activity’.

Ukrainian Channel 5, owned by renowned business executive and parliamentarian Petr Poroshenko, has also joined the action. Petr Poroshenko is a supporter of protests on Independence Square and is seen as a likely contender for presidency.

On Wednesday, Channel 5 launches a daily news program in Russian, which will be on air at 22:00 local time. “Nobody and nothing can separate us. We want the truth to sound in all languages, as Lviv and Donetsk, Sevastopol and Chernigov want to know the truth about what is going on in the country,” the press release of Channel 5 said.

On Tuesday, Lviv’s intellectuals demanded from Ukrainian parliament, the appointed government ministers and acting president that they pursue a balanced cultural and language policy in the country.

“Ukraine has gone through tragic days. Hundreds of our fellow countrymen were killed, and thousands were wounded. At the same time we hear with concern words about a need for advance on Ukraine’s east and south. We urge Verkhovna Rada for a balanced approach,” said an open letter by renowned public activists and activists of science and culture of that major regional centre in western Ukraine. They came out against harassment of people because of the place of their domicile or language they spoke. “Russians, Poles, Belarusians, Armenians, Jews, Georgians, Tatars and other nationalities stood side by side with Ukrainians on Kiev’s Independence Square,” the letter said.

As a sign of protest, a Lviv publishing house has decided to publish a book in Russian for the first time since it opened 11 years ago, its editor-in-chief Maryana Savka told Tass.

On February 23, the Ukrainian parliament supported a draft law abolishing the law On Principles of State Language Policy. This law came into effect on August 10, 2012, granting the status of regional language to Russian there where it is a native language for at least 10 percent of the population. According to the government, Russian got the status of regional language in 13 out of 27 regions.

At least 40 percent of Ukrainian nationals speak Russian in their daily life.

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