Ukrainian Opposition Blocks Parliament on Russian Language Bill
Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s party blocked the speaker’s podium in Parliament to halt voting on a draft law making Russian the former Soviet republic’s second official language.
The 450-seat legislature put off debate today of the bill after Ukrainian opposition parties clashed with President Viktor Yanukovych’s party, which initiated the proposal, on the assembly floor, leaving two lawmakers from Tymoshenko’s Fatherland party hospitalized.
“Parliamentarism in Ukraine has been ruined,” Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn said in televised remarks today on the Kiev- based Parliament’s Rada channel after failing to sponsor a compromise over the state language bill.
Tymoshenko, who was sentenced to seven years in prison in October for abuse of power while serving as premier, helped lead the bloodless 2004 Orange Revolution, when millions of people supported Ukraine’s closer ties with the European Union and less dependence on Russia. Yanukovych, who is from the Russian language-dominated eastern part of Ukraine, has been campaigning for official recogntion of the language. His party’s support has slid before October national elections.
“For three years we agreed that this bill should not be discussed in Parliament,” said Andriy Kozhemiakin, the head of Tymoshenko’s parliamentary group, on its website. “And then, the bill was pulled out of the closet to help influence the outcome of the elections.”
Ukrainian was announced as the only official language after the country got its independence as the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. The two Slavic languages are related, much like Czech and Slovak, both official languages in the defunct Czechoslovakia.
Mykola Tomenko, a deputy speaker and a Fatherland member, said the opposition is ready to block the parliament for a month, providing grounds for the legislature’s dismissal and elections before October.