Resident’s in Ukraine’s western city Lviv, a stronghold of Ukranian nationalism, chose to speak in Russian for the day on Wednesday.
They are angry that a law recognising Russian as a second language has been overturned by the new parliament.
People in Ukrainian-speaking Lviv say they wanted to show solidarity with the mainly Russian-speaking east and south.
Even the city’s mayor joined in.
“I can speak Russian without any problems – with an accent though,” Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said in Russian, before adding “Lviv is open to the world” and repeating it in Ukrainian, Polish and English.
“Our position is that all decisions should be taken when the moment is right. You should throw seeds on the warmed-up ground. Not on the asphalt that is covered with blood,” he went on to say in Ukrainian.
A local publishing house in the city printed a book in Russian, the first ever in its eleven year history. Even an opposition and nationalist TV station, Channel 5, was set to broadcast its evening news in Russian.
The original law, allowing that if more than 10% of a region spoke a minority language then it could become an official language for that area, was passed in June 2012 by the Yanukovych government. In several eastern and southern regions Russian became official. Hungarian and Romanian also became official in some regions in the west.
Changing this 2012 law is seen by many as provocative and premature. Critics warn against fuelling tensions in an already divided country and say there are more important issues to deal with than changing a law on language. There are also concerns at the rise of the the ultranationalist Svoboda party, which was a driving force behind repealing the law.
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