Lviv Region Council Rejects Language Law

LVIV, Ukraine -- The Lviv regional council on Tuesday voted to declare Ukraine’s controversial language law, which allows wider use of Russian and other ethnic languages, to be invalid in the region.

Iryna Farion

The move potentially sets a stage for confrontation between the regional authorities and the central government, which has been pushing to promote the law across Ukraine.

The council is dominated by the nationalist Svoboda party, whose popularity has been growing sharply over the past few weeks to a point that the party may enter Parliament at elections on October 28.

Iryna Farion, a council lawmaker, said the law should be invalid in the Lviv region because of its “anti-state essence” and due to “gross violations” during its approval in July.

Fears of the potential confrontation over the law intensified on Tuesday after Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said the legislation will not be cancelled on the territory of Ukraine.

“The people’s rights to communicate in a native language are not subject for review,” Azarov said addressing local official in Odessa, a region with strong sentiment for the Russian language.

The Lviv regional council, in its denial of the law that is otherwise applicable on the rest of the territory of Ukraine, makes a decisive step further in opposing the legislation.

The Lviv city council in August appealed to the Constitutional Court and asked it whether the law contradicts the constitution.

The developments come as another two local legislatures, including Ternopil regional council and Ivano-Frankivsk city council, appealed to the Constitutional Court with similar concerns.

The legislation was approved on July 31 and allowed regions to approve the wider use of Russian or any other language is it gets support of at least 10% of population in the region.

This opens the use of such languages in schools, courts and local governments.

But opposition groups said the law may discourage the use of Ukrainian language, which was already hurt by centuries of Russian language domination, and that may have a devastating effect on the country’s independence.

President Viktor Yanukovych signed the legislation on August 8.

The legislation was widely seen as aimed at energizing the Regions Party’s electoral base in the eastern and southern regions ahead of the October elections.

Regional council in Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk, Zaporizhia, Odessa, Luhansk, Kherson, Mykolayiv and Khaarkiv regions, as well as cities of Odessa, Sevastopol, Kharkiv, Mykolayiv, Kherson, Yalta, Luhansk, Zaporizhia, voted to approve the use of Russian as the regional language.

The law did somewhat increase popular support for the Regions Party in August, but those gains had mostly disappeared in September, opinion polls showed.

Source: Ukrainian Journal