Ukraine rushes through controversial language bill

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Ukraine rushes through controversial language bill

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Scuffles broke out on Tuesday evening in Ukraine’s parliament as a controversial draft law upgrading the status of the Russian language was rushed through.

Pro-government and opposition deputies clashed as critics accused majority party leaders of using every trick in the book to get the bill approved.

They accuse President Viktor Yanukovich of using the language issue to win support ahead of October elections.

In the end the vote was called but opposition MPs walked out in protest.

The passage of the language bill has provoked numerous demonstrations.

It is an emotive subject in the former Soviet republic whose state language is Ukranian, but where large numbers of people speak Russian as their mother tongue.

Pending presidential approval, the bill will recognise Russian as a ‘regional language’ allowing for its teaching in schools and its use in public service in some areas.

Opponents say it will dilute the country’s national identity and keep Ukraine in Moscow’s sphere of influence.