Ukraine’s parliamentary speaker has cancelled Friday’s session after the row over use of the Russian language rumbled on for a second day.
Thursday’s session ended in blows after fights broke out between politicians who want to preserve Ukrainian and those who favour Russian being recognised as an official language.
Outside the parliament in Kiev, Ukrainian-language activists protested to keep the Russian-language bill from becoming law – which would make it equal to Ukrainian in 13 out of 27 regions.
“Those who could possibly speak Ukrainian won’t bother to learn it, there’ll be no need to study Ukrainian in schools and universities, because Russian will be enough. As a result, the Ukrainian language will be marginalised,” said Kateryna Chepura from the Civil movement Vidsich.
The proposal comes from President Viktor Yanukovich’s Party of Regions, which has a lot of support in Russian-speaking areas.
Party member Vadym Kolesnichenko defended the bill:
“The draft law is based on peace and stability in our country. Of course far-right and far-left are not satisfied with it, because some want Russian to be the one official language, the others – Ukrainian. We think that Ukraine is a multi-language and polyethnic state.”
Some argue that Ukraine could become divided and accuse Yanukovich of stirring up trouble ahead of parliamentary elections in October.