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‘There are no Russian-speaking Ukrainians’ – Kiev 

The term was imposed by ideologues in Moscow seeking to weaken their neighbor, a language ombudsman claims

There is no such thing as a Russian-speaking Ukrainian citizen, Kiev’s state language protection commissioner, Taras Kremin, has declared. In recent years, Kiev has introduced a frenzy of measures to sever historical and cultural ties with Russia, as it scrambles to strengthen the status of the Ukrainian language despite accusations of prejudice against national minorities.

In an interview aired by the Ukrainian branch of the US state-run Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Kremin rejected the suggestion that some Ukrainians could be called “Russophones,” describing the term as “a marker introduced by the Russian ideology.”   

“We are all Ukrainian citizens… Ukrainian is the dominant language in all spheres of public life. Regardless of whether it is national communities or foreigners, everyone in the country must have a command of the Ukrainian language,” the ombudsman insisted.  

Earlier this year, Kremin stated that Ukrainians who speak Russian should not be referred to as “Russian-speaking,” claiming that the term had been used for decades by “Russian propaganda” to promote internal divisions in Ukraine. Citing a 2021 Constitutional Court ruling, he also insisted there were only Ukrainian citizens who had been “Russianized.”   

According to a March 2022 poll by the Sociological Group Rating, about 20% of Ukrainians considered Russian to be their native language. A Social Monitoring survey in 2021 suggested that more than 50% of Ukrainians were willing to read books and watch movies in Russian.   

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FILE PHOTO: A swearing in ceremony for Ukrainian conscripts in 2015.
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Ukrainian authorities embarked on a campaign to push Russian out of all areas of life immediately after the 2014 Western-backed Maidan coup. The measures sparked widespread public outrage and were among the key reasons behind the hostilities in Donbass.   

In 2018, the Ukrainian Constitutional Court overturned a 2012 law granting regional status to the Russian language, while at the same time Kiev adopted initiatives seeking to curb its use in education, mass media, business, and culture.  

Russia has repeatedly denounced Ukraine’s language policies. President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow’s military operation against its neighbor was partly to protect people who consider themselves part of Russian culture.   

On Monday, the speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, Ruslan Stefanchuk, went as far as to deny the existence of Russian ethnic minorities, arguing that they had no special rights. The statement sparked outrage in Moscow, with Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova saying the remarks came from “the Nazis of the 21st century.”

November 22, 2023 at 08:52PM

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