Ukraine promises to solve Russian language problem lawfully

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Sat Jun 3 15:41:04 UTC 2006

fwd from Itar-Tass: 31.05.2006, 21.34

Ukraine promises to solve Russian language problem lawfully

KIEV, May 31 (Itar-Tass) -- The Ukrainian leadership has promised to solve
the problem of the Russian language in the country by lawful methods.
Central authorities have no power to decide, administratively or in any
other forcible manner, on the legitimacy of decisions made by local
governments, Ukrainian presidential adviser Nikolai Poludenny said on
Wednesday, commenting on the decisions by several regions to give Russian
the status of a regional language. No one will use administrative measures
and methods against them. The main form of influence in solving this
problem is prosecutors work to oversee compliance with law by local
governments, he explained.

Poludenny described as a threatening tendency the decisions by local
governments to make Russian a regional language. The state is doing
everything allowed by law to preclude this tendency, the adviser added.
Prosecutors have submitted their protests but most of them have not been
considered yet and in regions where the protests have been rejected they
filed lawsuits, Poludenny said. He believes that the Constitutional Court
of Ukraine should address the status of the Russian language in the

Kharkov, Sevastopol, Donetsk, Dnepropetrovsk, Lugansk, Nikolayev, and
Yalta have given Russian the status of a regional language. Ukraine's
opposition Party of Regions said it would raise the problem of language
policy at the first session of the Supreme Rada. The Party of Regions
received the biggest number of seats -- 186 of the total 450 seats -- in
the March 26 parliamentary election. One of its leaders, Yevgeny Kushnarev
promised to press for a comprehensive approach to this issue. This policy
will equally apply to all other languages spoken in Ukraine by ethnic
groups that make up compact communities in one or another territory,
Kushnarev said.

Let the politicians drop illusions that the language problem can vanish
overnight with the aid of presidential decrees or government resolutions,
he said. Russian is the mother tongue or the instrument of everyday
communications for the majority of people living in the industrially
advanced eastern Lugansk and Donetsk regions, the southeast Dnepropetrovsk
and Zaporozhye regions, and in the autonomous Republic of the Crimea. It
is also very broadly used in Ukraine's second largest city of Kharkov and
in the major port city of Odessa and the adjacent area. A large number of
people in the capital Kiev are Russian-speaking, too.

The population in the traditionalist agrarian central, northwest and
western parts of the country, which offered strong support to the orange
revolution at the end of 2004, is predominantly Ukrainian-speaking.

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