16:35 03.07.2012

Verkhovna Rada passes language bill, says Kolesnichenko

The Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine's parliament, passed the bill on the basis of state language policy by 248 votes on Tuesday.

"Yes, [it was passed] as a whole," the author of the document, MP of the Regions Party parliamentary faction Vadym Kolesnichenko said.

The document significantly expands the sphere of use of Russian language.

A brawl broke out between deputies from the opposition and the majority factions before the vote on the bill, following attempts to consider the document in the sitting hall.

As reported by an Interfax-Ukraine correspondent, during the evening sitting of the parliament, the presiding First Deputy Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Adam Martyniuk proposed that MPs vote on bills, including the bill on the basis of state language policy. When he announced the latter bill, members of the BYT-Batkivschyna faction and the Our Ukraine-People's Self-Defense faction rushed to the presidium. Due to the chaos in parliament, the bill did not gain the necessary number of votes in the first vote. However, 248 MPs supported it in the second vote.

When asked whether the language bill has been passed, deputy of the BYT-Batkivschyna faction Serhiy Sobolev said, "No one passed anything, we'll clarify everything right now."

In an interview with Interfax-Ukraine, deputy of the Regions Party faction Yuriy Miroshnychenko said that the bill was passed as a whole.

"We did not intend to start a brawl. You saw that those idiots were trying to break their heads against the tribune. Let the idiots keep breaking their foreheads," Kolesnichenko said, while commenting on the situation in the sitting hall when the bill was passed.

Regions Party parliamentary faction MPs Vadym Kolesnichenko and Serhiy Kivalov are the authors of the bill.

Under the bill, Ukrainian is the official language. The official language is used all over the territory of Ukraine by the agencies representing the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of power, in international agreements, in the education process, within limits and according to the procedures stipulated in the law. Under the document, the government will also assist to use of the official language in the media, science, culture, and other spheres of public life.

The law also provides that regional or minority languages include Russian, Belarusian, Bulgarian, Armenian, Gagauz, Yiddish, Crimean Tatar, Moldovan, German, Greek, Polish, Romani, Romanian, Slovak, Hungarian, Rusyn, Karaim and Krymchak.

According to the document, if the number of native speakers of one of these languages is 10% or more of the population of the territory on which the language is used, then measures aimed at use of regional and minority languages will apply.

In separate cases local councils will decide whether a national minority language can be used if the number of speakers of this language is not less than 10% on the relevant territory.

Under the document, sittings of the Verkhovna Rada and its commissions and committees will be held in Ukrainian, although MPs may deliver speeches in other languages. The apparatus of the parliament will provide translators in such cases.

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