10:14 GMT +3 hours23 November 2014
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Language bill may split Ukraine - deputy

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(updated 18:26 28.10.2014)
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Parents will be compelled to enroll children to Russian-language classes, and students will have to attend Russian-language groups, in case the Ukrainian parliament adopts language bill, Ukrainian opposition deputy Vyacheslav Kirilenko said.

Parents will be compelled to enroll children to Russian-language classes, and students will have to attend Russian-language groups, in case the Ukrainian parliament adopts language bill, Ukrainian opposition deputy Vyacheslav Kirilenko said.

A draft language law, which is currently discussed in the Ukrainian parliament, ensures a significant expansion in the use of Russian.

Under the draft bill, Ukrainian will remain the only state language in the country but the use of "minority" languages will expand, Vadim Kolesnichenko, a member of the ruling Party of Regions faction and head of the Russian-Speaking Ukraine public movement, said.

Russian is widely spoken in the former Soviet republic, especially in the east, Crimea and the capital.

"Parents will be compelled to send children to Russian-language classes. Higher education entities will set up small groups for Ukrainian-speakers, and all other students will be forced to attend Russian-language groups," Kirilenko said.

The status of the Russian language is a hugely controversial issue in Ukraine. After being elected president in February on the back of strong support in largely Russian-speaking regions, Yanukovych expressed the intention to grant Russian the official status of a second national language in Ukraine.

Ukrainian is enshrined in the country's constitution as the sole national language, and 300 votes are required in the 450-seat parliament to change the constitution. With the country split almost 50-50 between the Russian-speaking east and more nationalist west, there is little immediate chance of any group reaching that level of support.

During the election campaign, Yanukovych declared that the position of the Russian language in Ukraine should be strengthened through the ratification of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.

Ukraine is already a signatory to the charter, which if it entered Ukrainian law would give each region of the country the right to choose the language used in official communication and for teaching in schools.

Yanukovych's election victory showed a clear split between the pro-Russian east of the country and the more nationalist west, where his opponent, Yulia Tymoshenko, won most votes. A similar divide was seen five years earlier, when Viktor Yushchenko was elected president at the expense of Yanukovych.

 

KIEV, September 19 (RIA Novosti)