Police in Ukraine have clashed with protesters in Kiev, demonstrating over the passing of a law to boost the status of the Russian language.
Police fired teargas to disperse the crowd. One demonstrator described why feelings are running high.
Opposition lawmaker Andrei Shvechenko said:
“For Ukraine, it’s really, it’s really a symbolic issue because many people feel if we lose the Ukrainian language as a national language, we will really lose our national identity. People are going to stay here as long as it’s required in order to secure that this law on Russian as a second language will never become the actual document.”
It comes after Ukraine’s parliament speaker offered to quit. Volodymr Lytvyn accused the ruling Party of Regions of duping the public.
“They tricked us as if we were children, but on a larger scale they have tricked the people of Ukraine, and I think the results of this deception will be felt for some time. Therefore, I ask you to consider and accept my resignation,” said Lytvyn.
Violence erupted when the bill was rushed through parliament. Critics say the measure is a threat to Ukrainian sovereignty and its 20 years of independence since the break-up of the Soviet Union.
The bill will not become law until first Lytvyn and President Viktor Yanukovich have signed it. If passed, the bill would recognise Russian as a “regional” language, in predominantly Russian-speaking areas, enabling its use in the public service.