[lg policy] Ukraine: Yushchenko leaves Russian in draft constitution out of respect for Russians

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Sun Jun 14 18:37:16 UTC 2009

Yushchenko leaves Russian in draft constitution out of respect for Russians

13.06.2009, 02.27

KIEV, June 13 (Itar-Tass) -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko
said he has decided to leave a mention of the Russian language in his
draft new constitution out of respect for the Russian community in the
country. “I would like to make myself clear as president that the
current version of the language policy in Ukraine is correct” the
Ukrainian language is an official language, a maternal language that
is protected and developed by a special law,” Yushchenko said during a
teleconference with law students on Friday.

“As for the Russian language and other ethnic minority languages, we
fully comply with the requirements of the European convention on
languages [European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages],” he
said. According to the president, the Russian language is mentioned in
the draft constitution “solely out of tactfulness and respect for the
minority that is the biggest among ethnic minorities” in Ukraine. He
noted that the principles proclaimed in the current constitution would
be continued.

“This is an ethical compromise and respect for the people who know
this language,” he added. Yushchenko believes that it won’t be
possible to change the constitution before the upcoming presidential
election to be held on January 17, 2010. Earlier, Ukrainian Foreign
Ministry spokesman Vasily Kirilich said the problem of the Russian
language in the country was far-fetched. "I do not see any problems
with the Russian language in Ukraine," he said after a visit to the
country by OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Knut

In Ukraine "every citizen speaks the language which he considers
native or which he more comfortable for communication", Kirilich said.

"Where else in the world is there a parliament where deputies speak a
foreign [Russian] language, except for the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada?"
he said. He stressed the need "to speak about what Ukraine and Russia
have in common rather then focus on what they have in difference".
"Our countries have very many common and generally positive things,"
Kirilich said.

Vollebaek studied the educational rights of ethnic Russians in
Ukraine. During his trips to Kiev, the Crimea, the Donetsk and Lvov
regions, Vollebaek visited educational institutions where teaching is
conducted in Russian and meet with members of the Russian community,
central and regional authorities. Vollebaek is now expected to prepare
a report with recommendations on how to ensure the educational rights
of ethnic Russians in Ukraine. The document will be handed over to the
Russian government. Kirilich said the reports should be expected by

Ukraine does not have to account to anyone for its language policy,
Culture and Tourism Minister Vasily Vovkun said. "Our actions should
be principled, consistent and offensive because they are based on the
Constitution of Ukraine and national interests," Vovkun said.  The
minister made it clear that "the development of an integral national
language and cultural space based on the promotion of the Ukrainian
language in all spheres of public life, on the presence of the
national cultural product in proper volumes on the domestic market has
been determined by the government as an important strategic objective.
But the implementation of this strategic task envisages, among other
things, the adoption and practical realisation of Ukraine's Language
Policy Concept, the new Ukrainian law 'On the Official Language', and
amendments to the Law on the Ratification of the European Charter for
Regional or Minority Languages."

Having emphasised the need for strict compliance with language
legislation in Ukraine, Vovkun expressed his readiness to "allow
Russian-speaking residents of cities in the east and south of the
country to learn the official language through language courses set up
under cultural institutions, such as libraries, higher educational
institutions, theatres, research and methodology centres."

However he did not specify whether it would be an operational or
obligatory procedure for people living in regions that have been
fighting for the quality of the Russian and Ukrainian languages for
more than 20 years. However Verkhovna Rada member Vadim Kolesnichnko
said the rights of Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine were
systematically violated. "The Verkhovna Rada has adopted 43 laws that
exclude the Russian language from our life," Kolesnichenko said.

"Over 3,000 schools have been destroyed" over the years of
independence, he said. Teaching in universities in 19 Ukrainian
regions where half of the population speak Russian is conducted in
Ukrainian. There are no Russian-language schools in six regions, and
four regions each have only one.
According to the lawmaker, the Russian language has been barred from
radio, television, films, and business. "The future of our children is
not enviable" in such a situation, he added.


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