The Verkhovna Rada has adopted a contentious bill on protecting the Ukrainian language. The draft law will now be sent to the president for his signature.

Passed in its second reading on April 25, the bill will formalize rules governing the usage of Ukrainian language in the media, education, and business. It aims to strengthen the language’s role in a country where much of the public still speaks Russian.

However, the document has not been without controversy. Earlier versions of the bill appeared poised to place potentially unbearable burdens on English-language publications like the Kyiv Post. However, this was changed in later versions of the text.

In the wake of the draft language law’s passage, President-elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy said that he would analyze whether any of the clauses of the bill violate citizens’ rights, and would react according to his constitutional authority. He argued that Ukrainian should be the only state language, but added that the text of the bill had not been sufficiently discussed with civil society.


Regardless of Zelenskiy’s view, the bill may be signed into law by outgoing President Petro Poroshenko before the new president is inaugurated.

A total of 278 out of the Rada’s 423 lawmakers supported the bill, 38 voted against it, and seven abstained.

The pro-Russian Opposition Bloc voted against the legislation, and most members of Vidrodzhenya (Revival) and People’s Will did not support it. These three factions are offshoots of ex-President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions.

All the other parties voted for the language bill.


One of the primary — and most controversial areas — governed by the draft “language law” is media.

According to the bill, print and online publications will have to be either exclusively in Ukrainian or have a Ukrainian language version. This norm does not apply to Crimean Tatar, English and official languages of the European Union.

The quota for Ukrainian-language content for national television and radio broadcasters will be increased from 75 percent to 90 percent, while the quota for regional television and radio broadcasters will be increased from 60 percent to 80 percent.


Crimean Tatar language television channels and radio broadcasters will be able to provide up to 70 percent of their coverage in Crimean Tatar.

Films and theaters

Films produced in Ukraine must be in Ukrainian. Subtitled non-Ukrainian speeches cannot exceed 10 percent of the film.

Foreign language films will have to be dubbed into Ukrainian. Only foreign language films meeting Ukrainian authorities’ quality standards or ones shown during film festivals can be subtitled, as opposed to being dubbed.

Subtitled foreign-language films cannot exceed 10 percent of a movie theater’s program.

Under the bill, cultural events, including theater performances, will have to be in Ukrainian. Other languages can be used during cultural events if it is justified for artistic reasons or for the purpose of protecting ethnic minority languages.

Songs can also be performed in languages other than Ukrainian.

State and municipal theaters will be allowed to show performances in languages other than Ukrainian if such performances are subtitled or translated into Ukrainian.



Publishing houses will be required to print at least 50 percent of their books in Ukrainian, and book stores will have to sell at least 50 percent of their books in Ukrainian.

This norm does not apply to ethnic minority language books funded by the government and to specialized foreign language and minority language book stores.


Under the bill, all schools and universities will be required to teach in Ukrainian.

Classes taught in ethnic minority languages will be allowed at Ukrainian-language schools, and some subjects at Ukrainian-language universities can be taught in English or one of the official languages of the European Union.


The Ukrainian web sites of foreign businesses must have a Ukrainian version, according to the bill.

Computer software distributed in Ukraine will have to be either in Ukrainian, English or in one of the official languages of the European Union.

The bill also requires the employees of service sector businesses to speak to their customers in Ukrainian.


The enforcement of the law will be overseen by a Ukrainian language ombudsman.

Violations of the law will be punishable with fines ranging from Hr 3,400 to Hr 11,900 ($125 to $440).

However, penalties for violations of the law will begin only in three years.

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