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Ukraine’s Rada registers draft law for support to Russian language

December 29, 2016, 0:08 UTC+3 KEV

The author of the bill is MP Yevgeny Balitsky, member of the Opposition Bloc

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© Mikhail Markiv/Press service of the Ukrainian President/TASS

KIEV, December 28. /TASS/. Ukraine’s parliament Verkhovna Rada has registered a draft law for state support and protection of the languages of ethnic minorities in Ukraine.

The author of the draft law is MP Yevgeny Balitsky, member of the Opposition Bloc.

The bill envisages allocation of state funding to support and popularize Russian and the languages of other ethnic minorities in 2017-2020. It stipulates "the setting-up of schools, specialized classes, training courses, workshops, and seminars for the studies of Russian and the languages of ethnic minorities, the publication of reference books and dictionaries, integration of library funds containing books in Russian, and the broadcasting of Russia radio and TV shows."

The situation also concerns the reduction of costs of printed produce in Russia and the languages of other ethnic minorities "by way of tax, tariff and customs regulating."

The funds for financing these steps should be earmarked from central and local budgets.

Yevgeny Balitsky was elected to the Verkhovna Rada in the city of Melitopol in Ukraine’s south-eastern Zaporozhye region. He used to be a member of the Party of Regions before the ban of the latter by Ukrainian authorities.

On June 3, 2012, the Rada adopted a law on languages, commonly known as the Kivalov/Kolesnichenko law. Its passage became one of the most resounding political events in the country and triggered actions of protest, blocking of the parliamentary rostrum, and brawls in the hall for sessions.

The nationalists claimed the law aimed ‘to Russify’ Ukraine, contained threats to Ukrainian statehood and meant as step toward granting Russian the status of a state language. 

In line with the document, Russian received the status of a regional language in the regions where it was the native tongue for at least ten percent of the population. Official data indicated it was to get the status of a regional language in thirteen of Ukraine’s twenty-seven regions.

It took legal effect on August 10, 2012. The regional council and city hall in Odessa, the Kharkov, Kherson, Nikolayev, Zaporoshye, Sevastopol, Dnepropetrovsk, and Lugansk city halls, the Krasny Luch town hall in the Lugansk region, as well as the Zaporozhye, Donetsk, Kherson, Nikolayev, and Dnepropetrovsk regional councils passed resolutions on granting Russian the status of a regional language.

However, right after the February 2014 state coup the Verkhovna Rada heeded the initiative of deputies representing the ultra-nationalistic Svoboda party and voted for repealing the Law of the Foundations of State Language Policy. Alexander Turchynov, then-speaker of the Rada and Acting President, refused to sign the motion into law, saying a new law on the basics of language policy was necessary.

This means that, from the formal point of view, that the previous law was not officially lifted.

In July 2014, as many as 57 deputies, mostly representing nationalist political forces, submitted a petition for its revoking on the grounds that "it did not meet provisions of the Ukrainian Constitution."

The Constitution Court is currently scrutinizing the petition behind closed doors. Prior to it, the majority of speakers who addressed the court session spoke in favor of repealing the law.

Eyewitnesses in the case claim the Rada passed the bill on the background of procedural violations and some of its clauses ran counter to the Constitution.

Many experts believe, however, that an attempt to revoke the law on languages is fraught with a risk of destabilization.

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