KIEV, Ukraine (AP) – Ukraine’s sizable Russian-speaking minority won a major victory on Wednesday when a new law was approved that allows the official use of the language in many regions. Critics see the change as a threat to this former Soviet country’s identity and its hopes of moving further away from the Russian fold.
The law, signed by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, leaves Ukrainian as the only state language, but it allows public servants and citizens to file official documentation in Russian at government bodies, courts and other state institutions in the regions where more than 10 percent of residents are Russian speakers.
Russian is spoken predominantly in the east and south of the country, while Ukrainian is spoken in western Ukraine. But Ukrainian has picked up across the country since the nation became independent after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
According to a 2001 census, 68 percent of Ukrainians name Ukrainian their native tongue, while 30 percent said it was Russian. Another census is scheduled for next year.
Opponents say the law could upset Ukraine’s fragile linguistic balance by removing incentives for millions of Russian-speaking Ukrainians to learn to speak and write Ukrainian.
Critics also fear the law will push Ukraine closer to Russia and away from the West. Some have called the law a cheap ploy by Yanukovych to win votes in the Russian-speaking east, his support base, ahead of October’s parliamentary election.
Pro-Western opposition forces led by jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko vowed to annul the “anti-Ukrainian law” and bring Yanukovych to justice. Her party also protested a decision by election officials to ban Tymoshenko and her jailed former Interior Minister Yuri Lutsenko, from running in the election.
The legislation that Parliament approved regarding the Russian language caused violent brawls among lawmakers and during street rallies, and Yanukovych’s move will likely fuel further protests.
In an apparent attempt to assuage his critics, Yanukovych also set up a body to promote the use of Ukrainian.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
- Ticking time bombs: Telltale signs your water heater is about to explode
- Reading glasses could be a thing of the past
- 6 cool ways teachers are using technology in the classroom
- Emerging tech jobs in Phoenix and how to get one in 2017
- 4 top treatments athletes use for pain
- Emergency! What to do when bathrooms flood
- Operation Santa Claus needs holiday help
- This college bowl season is likely to be epic
- Arizona kids in crisis: How you can help
- 11 holiday classics for the ultimate movie marathon
- 2016 college football rivalry games you simply can't miss
- New treatment offers hope for migraine sufferers
- 11 stadiums to watch your favorite football team
- Shopping for a TV? Best models for 2016
- The new beer pairing guide for holiday foods
- Avoid this holiday plumbing disaster in your home
- 7 tips to avoid holiday weight gain
- New treatments mean better prostate cancer survival rates
- 5 of the scariest things found in drains
- 6 tips to create the best family movie night
- New bone marrow procedure holds promise for healing pain
- The best places to celebrate Fall in Phoenix
- Infamous athletes who did the most time for their crimes
- Diet, exercise and aspirin: 3 tools to fight colon cancer
- 2016 baseball highlights, bloopers and blunders
- See how CFOs really feel about business in the Valley
- The best television shows on the internet
- The 5 worst things you could do for your roof
- 6 coolest things brewing in Arizona
- The virus that keeps head and neck cancers on the rise