The FINANCIAL — KIEV. Ukraine’s former premier, Yulia Tymoshenko, said on October 17 that her opposition fraction would do everything it could do to stop the Russian language gaining official status in the former Soviet state, RIA Novosti said.
“We will do everything we can…to defend Ukraine against the introduction of Russia as a second state language,” Tymoshenko said.
Under the controversial language bill, Ukrainian would actually remain the only state language, but restrictions would be lifted on the use of other languages spoken in the country, including Russian, Bulgarian, Romanian and Hungarian, granting them official regional status.
“I’m from a Russian-speaking family myself,” the head of the BYuT fraction said. “But my mother has never experienced discomfort that there is one state language – Ukrainian – in the country.”
The public and political debate over the bill is exacerbated by the fact that many of the country's top politicians, including Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, cannot actually speak Ukrainian, while President Viktor Yanukovych is himself a novice speaker.
Russian is still used in much of Ukraine, especially in the east, the Crimea and the capital Kiev, and there is a strong movement to protect the rights of Russian speakers.