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75% of Ukrainian citizens support free use of Russian language in private life

Some 15% of Ukrainian citizens residing in the southern and eastern part of the country think that Russian can receive official status in the country, according to the poll

KIEV, January 21. /TASS/. The Russian language should be used freely in the private life of Ukrainian citizens, while Ukrainian should remain the only state language, 75% of Ukrainians polled by the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation stated.

About 15% of Ukrainian citizens residing in the southern and eastern part of the country think that Russian can receive official status in the country, while about 12% state that it could become the second national language along with Ukrainian. Less than 1% of Western Ukraine residents support the previous opinion.

Over 80% of those polled consider the Ukrainian language an important feature of the country’s independence. According to 53% of those interviewed, at least half of the Ukrainian media should be issued in Ukrainian.

"The absolute majority of Ukrainians (80%) agree that the national leadership and all government officials must use the state language during work hours," the foundation added, noting that the majority of citizens from all regions of Ukraine support this stance.

The poll was held on December 13-18 in all regions of Ukraine among over 2,000 respondents over 18 years of age. The margin of error does not surpass 2.3%.

Ukrainian language law

On April 25, 2019, the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian Parliament) passed the law on provision of the functioning of the Ukrainian language as the state language. On May 15, it was signed by then outgoing President Pyotr Poroshenko. The document stipulates that Ukrainians should use the Ukrainian language in all spheres of their lives. The law will be enforced by "language inspectors." They will be allowed to attend any state agency’s meetings, request documents from civic associations and political parties, as well as impose fines.

The law is applicable to all spheres except for the private conversations and religious ceremonies. The attempts to establish official multilingualism are declared "the actions aimed at forcibly changing or overthrowing the constitutionally established state order." At the same time, a notion of "public humiliation of the Ukrainian language" is introduced, which is interpreted as "a wrongful act that is equal to insulting Ukrainian state symbols and is punishable in accordance with law."

On December 6, the Venice Commission recommended that Ukraine postpone the enactment of the law until the law on ethnic minorities was drafted. The commission’s document highlighted the importance of seeing to it that the language issue does not become a source of interethnic tensions in Ukraine.

In December 2019, during the press conference on the outcomes of the Normandy Four summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed that Russia calls for equal rights for the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine. "I would like to note that 38% of Ukrainian citizens consider themselves Russian-speaking," the president clarified. "Starting next year, as we know, all Russian-language schools will change their language to Ukrainian. By the way, as far as I am aware, representatives of other schools — Hungarian, Romanian or Polish-speaking ones — will switch [to Ukrainian] only in 2023. As if there were more people speaking Hungarian in Ukraine than Russian." Putin added that this situation raises questions in Russia that have been left without answers so far.