What’s Beef? Ukrainian Politicians

Friday, May 25th, 2012


KIEV, UKRAINE—Opposition lawmakers on Friday blocked the Ukrainian Parliament a day after a brawl in the chamber sent one legislator to the hospital.

The melee was sparked by a proposed bill to make Russian an official language in eastern regions of the country with large native Russian-speaking populations. Lawmakers grappled and threw punches. One was hospitalized with a head injury.

On Friday, deputies opposed to the bill blocked the Parliament speaker’s podium, preventing the session from starting, while some 200 demonstrators held a noisy protest against the bill outside the building.

Parliament speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn on Friday said the brawl had “completely destroyed” the legislative process and called for new elections. But most parties do not support an emergency poll, because regular elections are set for October.

The bill would allow the use of the Russian language in courts, hospitals and other official institutions in the regions where Russian-speakers make up more than 10 per cent of the population. Pro-government lawmakers, who draw their support from the Russian-speaking south and east of Ukraine, say it will allow people living there to use the language of their preferences.

Opponents of the bill say it will stem the development of the Ukrainian language, by creating no incentive for millions of Ukrainians to learn and use it.

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