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You're reading: Language law a ploy to distract voters

Some analysts maintain that the law would undermine the status of Ukrainian, which has been the only official state language since the country gained independence in 1991. Others anticipate a deepening of a regional divide between the Ukrainian-speaking western regions, and the mainly Russophone areas of the south and east.

Yet as usual with events involving the ruling Regions Party and its president Viktor Yanukovych, there is more to this move than is at first evident.

The circumstances of the bill’s passing were calculated to inflame. It was introduced without forewarning, when many deputies and Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn were absent. It received votes from 248 deputies, well over the required minimum of 226. The Regions deputies were supported by the Communist Party and People’s Party. Lytvyn subsequently offered his resignation, but it was rejected by the assembly the following day. Seven deputies announced they were starting a hunger strike in protest. There were angry demonstrations in Kyiv and in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, the heartland of Ukrainian speakers. Protests are also planned by the Ukrainian community abroad in centers like Toronto.

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