Verkhovna Rada members adopted the law "Providing the functioning of the Ukrainian language as the official one," which enshrines its exclusive rights against the other languages in the country. This decision was backed by 278 MPs, with the minimal needed number being 226, TASS reported.
Before the start of the voting, Verkhovna Rada Speaker Andrei Paruby stated that former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and former head of the dissident Kiev Patriarchy Filaret are present in the room. Participants of the military operation in Donbass and writers, performers and other political figures who support the idea of the total Ukrainization of the country were also present in the session room.
Paruby called on those present in the room to vote for this historical draft law, as he called it.
Incumbent President Pyotr Poroshenko wrote on Facebook immediately after the announcement of the voting results, calling today’s decision a historic one. He compared it with the restoration of the Ukrainian army and the reception of autocephaly by the so-called Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
"The Ukrainian language is a symbol of our people, our state and our nation," Poroshenko wrote. "It is another important step on the way toward our mental independence."
Co-founder of the "Opposition Platform - For Life" Yuri Boiko earlier called the specified language law "punitive." "I think that this draft law splits the society and spoils our relations with the neighbors," he stressed. The opposition politician also noted that Ukraine’s multi-national people speak 79 languages, and the current authorities are creating an atmosphere of intolerance to language diversity.
The document gained resonance in the country and abroad. So, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic addressed the parliamentary members, asking them to suspend the work on the draft law for the period of election and provide participation of representatives for national minorities in its development. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that Russia is concerned about violations of the language and educational rights of national minorities by Ukraine’s authorities, in light of which Moscow addressed the EU, the Council of Europe, the OSCE and NATO.
The language law
Verkhovna Rada adopted this law on October 4 last year at the first reading. About 2,500 amendments were suggested for the second reading in total, most of which were finally rejected.
The law "Providing the functioning of the Ukrainian language as the official one" stipulates that Ukrainian is the sole official language in the country. Attempts to introduce official multilingualism are recognized as "directed at the forcible change or overthrow of the constitutional regime." The term "public degradation of the Ukrainian language" was introduced. It is regarded as an "illegal action which equals abuse of the state symbols of Ukraine and is punished under the law."
The law stipulates the creation of the position of commissioner for the official language protection whom the cabinet of ministers will appoint and dismiss. His task is to protect the Ukrainian language, as well as the citizens’ rights to receive information and services in all spheres of public life on Ukrainian territory in the official language.
"Language inspectors" will monitor the execution of the law. They will be present at sessions in any state bodies, demand documents from public organizations and political parties and issue fines.
The National Commission for Official Language Standards will develop and approve the language norms. It will also develop methods to check the level of the Ukrainian language, in particular for gaining citizenship or occupying certain positions.
The state certificate is a document that confirms the level of the Ukrainian language that will be issued by the Center for the Ukrainian Language after examination.
The law also determines a circle of people who have to be proficient in the official language. It includes the Ukrainian president, Verkhovna Rada speaker and his deputies, members of the cabinet of ministers, heads of central executive bodies that are not members of the government and their deputies, chairman of the Security Service, prosecutor general, head of the National Bank, members of the Audit Chamber, Verkhovna Rada commissioner for human rights, commissioner for official language protection, parliamentary members, members of local councils and village, town and city heads.
Public employees, contract soldiers, diplomats, lawyers, notaries, personal care attendants, heads of state and municipal educational facilities, teachers and research members of educational facilities, medical employees of state and municipal healthcare facilities and other people have to be proficient in the Ukrainian language.
Ukrainian is proclaimed to be the language of record management, judicial proceedings, elections and referendums, international negotiations, labor relations, the language of education, science, culture and sports, the language of the media, advertisement, book publishing and program interface, as well as the language for servicing consumers. Half of all newspapers, magazines and books should be in Ukrainian.
The law does not cover the sphere of personal life, and it is possible to use any language there. Those who violate the language law norms may face fines of up to 11,900 hryvnias ($450) and even imprisonment in case they try to introduce multilingualism in Ukraine, which is considered equivalent to the overthrow of the constitutional regime.