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Bill To ‘Secure’ Ukrainian As Official State Language Gets Affirmation

The Ukrainian language also would be mandatory in all official documents, court records, elections and referendums, international treaties, and labor agreements,.

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Activists rally outside parliament in Kyiv in support of the language law on April 25. RFERL

Ukraine’s parliament has approved legislation that its authors say will “secure” the use of Ukrainian as the official “state language.”

Ukraine’s outgoing President Petro Poroshenko has said that he will sign the bill into law before he leaves office in early June.

But Ukraine’s president-elect, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has criticized the bill as a set of “prohibitions and punishments” that will complicate bureaucratic procedures and “increase the number of officials instead of reducing them.”

In an April 25 statement on his Facebook page, Zelenskiy said his view “is that the state should promote the development of the Ukrainian language by creating incentives and positive examples.”

“After my appointment to the post of president, a thorough analysis of this law will be made to ensure that it meets all the constitutional rights and interests of all Ukrainian citizens,” Zelenskiy said, adding that he will respond “in accordance with the constitutional powers of the president of Ukraine and in the interest of citizens.”

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The bill says the language rules would not apply to private conversations or religious rituals. Pixabay

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters in Moscow that the bill contradicts the Ukrainian Constitution and promotes the “Ukrainization” of the country.

“It is actually a law on forced Ukrainization, basically a total one. Its texts envision significant restrictions, and in some case directly ban the use of Russian and the languages of ethnic minorities in different spheres of social life,” Zakharova said.

The bill says “the only official state language in Ukraine is the Ukrainian language.”

It says “attempts” to introduce other languages as the state language would be considered as “activities with the goal to forcibly change the constitutional order.”

The bill also introduces a legal concept known as the “public humiliation of the Ukrainian language,” which it defines as “illegal activity equated to desecration of Ukraine’s state symbols” under the country’s criminal code.

It allows language quotas for state and private television broadcasts and says at least half of the text in printed media must be in Ukrainian.

The legislation also calls for the introduction of “language inspectors who will be present at all gatherings and sessions of any state bodies.”

They would be empowered to demand documents from political parties and public organizations and to impose punitive fines of up to $450 if they determine the documents are “not in Ukrainian.”

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In an April 25 statement on his Facebook page, Zelenskiy said his view “is that the state should promote the development of the Ukrainian language by creating incentives and positive examples.” VOA

The bill also calls for the establishment of a state-run “center for the Ukrainian language” to issue certificates that confirm the language fluency of Ukrainian citizens.

Public posts that require Ukrainian fluency under the bill include the presidency, the speaker of parliament and all parliamentary deputies, government ministers, the head of the state security service, the prosecutor-general, the chief of the Ukrainian National Bank, and local council members.

The Ukrainian language also would be mandatory in all official documents, court records, elections and referendums, international treaties, and labor agreements,.

The bill says the language rules would not apply to private conversations or religious rituals.

The language issue is controversial among Russian speakers in Ukraine.

Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine claim Kyiv is deliberately curtailing the use of the Russian language. (RFERL)

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Ukraine’s New Leader Gets Sworn In, Immediately Dissolves Parliament

The 41-year-old Zelenskiy had upended the traditions of Ukrainian politics

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Ukraine's New Leader, Parliament
Ukrainian President-elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy greets supporters before inauguration ceremony in Kyiv, Ukraine, May 20, 2019. VOA

Ukrainian TV star Volodymyr Zelenskiy was sworn in as the country’s new president on Monday, promised to stop the war in the country’s east against Russian-backed separatists and immediately disbanded parliament, which he has branded as a group only interested in self-enrichment.

Even before he disbanded the Supreme Rada, which had been one of his campaign promises, the 41-year-old Zelenskiy had upended the traditions of Ukrainian politics.

He ditched the idea of a traditional motorcade to his inauguration, walking to the parliament through a park packed with people. Flanked by four bodyguards, he was giving high-fives to some spectators and even stopped to take a selfie with one of them.

Before he made the announcement, Zelenskiy asked the Supreme Rada to adopt a bill against illegal enrichment and support his motions to fire the country’s defense minister, the head of the Ukrainian Security Service and the Prosecutor General. All of them are allies of former President Petro Poroshenko, who lost the presidential election in a landslide to the comedian with no previous political experience.

Ukraine's New Leader, Parliament
Ukrainian TV star Volodymyr Zelenskiy was sworn in as the country’s new president on Monday. Flickr

In a feisty speech after his inauguration, Zelenskiy told the Rada that his main goal for the presidency is to bring peace to eastern Ukraine, where government troops have been fighting Russia-backed separatists for five years.

“I’m ready to do everything so that our heroes don’t die there,” he said. “I’m ready to lose my popularity and, if necessary, I’m ready to lose my post so that we have peace.”

Zelenskiy garnered 73% of the vote at the presidential election last month in a victory that reflected Ukrainians’ exhaustion with politics-as-usual. For years, he has played the Ukrainian president in a popular television show.

The new president wrapped up his speech at parliament by referring to his career as a comedian.

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“Throughout all of my life, I tried to do everything to make Ukrainians laugh,” he said with a smile. “In the next five years I will do everything so that Ukrainians don’t cry.” (VOA)