KIEV, May 8 (RIA Novosti) – Acting Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk has promised a constitutional reform that would let regional authorities seek an official status for Russian and other minority languages, provided Ukrainian will remain the only state language in the country.
“Local councils will be granted the right to promote the Russian and other languages,” Yatsenyuk said in a Thursday speech to the nation dedicated to Victory Day.
Language remains a contentious issue in Ukraine, where a third of the country claims to be Russian-speaking, but where Ukrainian was and is the only official language and is predominant in the west of the country.
The self-styled Ukrainian prime minister said the Cabinet had drafted a replacement law for the 2012 legislation that gave Russian or other minority languages the status of a “regional language” in local jurisdictions, after it was repealed on the second day of President Yanukovych’s flight from Ukraine.
After a coup in February, the self-proclaimed government in Kiev swiftly abolished the law passed under the Yanukovych administration that made Russian a second official language in 13 of 27 Ukrainian regions.
The cancellation sparked protests in the traditionally Russian-dominated areas of eastern and southeastern Ukraine that resulted in Crimea’s secession and the rise of a pro-federalization movement across a large swathe of eastern territories.
According to the 2001 census, about 75 percent of the Donetsk region’s residents consider Russian to be their mother tongue, with some 30 percent nationwide calling Russian their native language.