Law On Ukraine State Language Comes Into Force
By RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service July 16, 2019
KYIV -- The law on Ukraine's state language came into force on July 16, two months after former President Petro Poroshenko endorsed it days before leaving office.
The Law on Securing Ukrainian Language as the State Language declares Ukrainian "the only official state language in Ukraine."
It says "attempts" to introduce other languages as the state language would be considered attempts to "forcibly change the constitutional order."
The new law defines what it calls the "public humiliation of the Ukrainian language" as a punishable offense under the country's Criminal Code.
It introduces mandatory language quotas for state and private television broadcasts and says at least half of the text in printed media must be in Ukrainian.
Public posts that require fluency in Ukrainian include the presidency, the position of parliament speaker, as well as all lawmakers, ministers, the head of the state security service, the prosecutor-general, the chief of the Ukrainian National Bank, and local council members.
Ukrainian becomes mandatory in all official documents, court records, elections and referendums, international treaties, and labor agreements,.
The law says language rules would not apply to private conversations or religious rituals.
Ukrainian is the native language of some 67 percent of Ukraine's almost 45 million population, while Russian is the native language of almost 30 percent. Russian is spoken mostly in urban areas. Almost 3 percent of Ukraine's inhabitants are native speakers of other languages.
Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine claim Kyiv is deliberately curtailing the use of the Russian language.
Russia has called for "urgent consultations" to be held later on July 16 on the new law in the UN Security Council.
Russia's Permanent Mission to the Council of Europe has also called on the rights body to react to the new piece of legislation.
"We consider this law in violation of Ukraine's obligations within the Council of Europe. We call on all relevant bodies of the Council of Europe to react to the violations," the Russian mission stated on Twitter.
Ukraine's new president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who was inaugurated on May 20, has criticized the law as a set of "prohibitions and punishments" that will complicate bureaucratic procedures and "increase the number of officials instead of reducing them."
Copyright (c) 2019. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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