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Financial Times: Language law triggers violence in Ukraine

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July 4, 2012, 8:33 p.m. | Ukraine abroad — by Kyiv Post

Clashes in Kyiv between riot police and opposition protestors forced Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to cancel an appearance where he had planned to trumpet Ukraine’s success in co-hosting the Euro 2012 football championship which ended days ago.
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“Opposition demonstrators clashed violently with police in Kyiv on Wednesday as they protested against a law broadening rights of Russian speakers that they fear could drive a wedge between Ukraine’s western and eastern halves,” Roman Olearchyk and Neil Buckley wrote in a Financial Times report.

According to the report, “riot police and protesters used tear gas against each other as demonstrators opposed” language legislation adopted by President Viktor Yanukovych’s ruling party in parliament.  Citing analysts, the report claims that adoption of the controversial law is widely seen as an attempt “to boost the fortunes of his flagging party ahead of crucial parliamentary elections in October.”

“The obvious purpose is to polarize society, in turn mobilizing the eastern Ukrainian, Russian-speaking electorate, and to distract people from the failings of government, corruption and economic ills,” Andreas Umland, an associate political science professor at Kyiv Mohyla Academy, told the Financial Times. This, he added, was a “risky” tactic that could test Ukraine’s cohesion.

Click here to read the entire report.

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