Ukraine passes first draft of controversial Russian-language bill

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Ukraine passes first draft of controversial Russian-language bill

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Ukraine has passed the first draft of a Russian-language bill that caused physical fights in parliament nearly two weeks ago.

Outside the building in Kiev, a strong police presence separated protesters who are for and against the proposed law.

Ukrainian media is reporting that at least one person has suffered broken ribs.

If the bill does eventually become law, Russian can be recognised as an official language in 13 out of 27 regions.

This is being seen, by some, as President Viktor Yanukovich courting ethnic Russians and trying to divide Ukrainians ahead of parliamentary elections due to take place in October.

“I want to speak my native Ukrainian language, which is historical and beautiful,” said Ukrainian-language protester Maria Andreeva.

Around 17 percent of Ukraine’s population are ethnic Russians, and the language could be used in institutions like courts and hospitals.

With 234 out of 450 votes in favour, the bill is due for a second reading early in July.