Ukrainian Language Bill Protesters Send Yanukovych to Belarus

Ukrainian Language Bill Protesters Send Yanukovych to Belarus
# 09 July 2012 19:23 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. The opponents of Ukraine’s controversial new language law that boosts the legal status of Russian sent President Viktor Yanukovych, who celebrates his 62nd birthday on Monday, a ticket to Belarus, APA reports quoting RIA Novosti.

The anti-bill activists, who have been rallying against the legislation since July 3 in downtown Kiev, bought symbolic birthday gifts to Yanukovych, including a suitcase and a train ticket to the Belarusian village of Yanuki. The protesters believe the president is an ethnic Belarusian since his grandfather was born there, Ukraine’s news agency said.

Greeting cards, a fake Belarusian visa and a book called “Basics of Ukrainophobia” were among the presents sent to Yanukovych, whose Party of Regions drafted the disputed bill, according to the UNIAN.

The Ukrainian Pravda daily reported on Monday that several banners reading: “Happy Birthday!” and picturing late Iraqi and Libyan leaders Saddam Hussein and Muammar Qaddafi appeared in Kiev on Monday.

The Democratic Alliance opposition party allegedly masterminded the posters, the daily said.

For almost a week hundreds of people have been gathering outside the Ukrainian House cultural center in downtown Kiev to rally against a language bill that grants Russian, the mother tongue of most people in eastern and southern Ukraine, "regional language" status.

According to new legislation, while Ukrainian would remain the official state language, Russian could also be used in courts, hospitals, schools and other state institutions in Russian-speaking areas. “Regional language” status would also be granted to other languages spoken in the former Soviet republic, including Bulgarian, Romanian and Hungarian.

Jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko said the bill’s passage is a challenge to the Ukrainian nation and urged her supporters to protest in central Kiev.

Yanukovych’s party insists the bill does not undermine Ukrainian, but critics say it is aimed at aggravating tensions between Ukrainian and Russian speakers ahead of the parliamentary elections in October.

In his 2010 election campaign Yanukovych vowed to make Russian a second state language.