Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said on Thursday he was doing all he could to learn the Ukrainian language.
Like many people in Ukraine, Azarov has never learned the national language, as Russian is widely spoken in the former Soviet republic, especially in the east, Crimea and the capital.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has criticized officials for their lack of Ukrainian and demanded they learn the language.
“I am doing everything possible [to learn the language] - reading all the documents and writing instructions in Ukrainian, learning to speak,” Azarov 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.
However, a draft law in parliament does provide for a significant expansion in the use of Russian in the country.
Under the bill, Ukrainian will remain the only state language in the country but the use of "minority" languages will expand, ruling Party of Regions lawmaker Vadim Kolesnichenko said this week.
"The bill brings Ukraine closer to European standards and implements the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages," the head of the Russian-Speaking Ukraine public movement said.
It would lift restrictions on the use of Russian in all key spheres of public life - television, advertizing, cinema, local self-government, the judiciary and education.
KIEV, September 9 (RIA Novosti)