Zakharova: Simply No Words to Describe Ukraine’s New Anti-Russian Language Laws!
Maria Zakharova, Director of the Information and Press Department of the Russian MFA:
I'd like to begin, in particular, with the problem, which was discussed yesterday on international platforms as well. This is the global problem of that the Ukrainian Act «On ensuring the functioning of Ukrainian as the official language» came into effect. July 16th will enter modern Ukraine's history as a sad date. The discriminatory law «On ensuring the functioning of Ukrainian as the official language» became effective in the country's territory. It isn't about its beautiful name. It's about its essence. In fact, it legalizes the Ukrainization of Ukraine's multi-ethnic society by force. The majority of its members prefer Russian for daily use.
Yesterday, I monitored the rhetoric and statements made by Ukrainian politicians. I don't know how should I refer to Mr. Klimkin as — the former minister or the current minister. Is he still a minister or politician? I can't make out the political situation there when it comes to the offices and duties of a number of Ukrainian figures. Therefore, I'll refer to him as Mr. Klimkin. Making acidic commentary, he said that he wishes that international officials came. By the way, those international officials, who hoped that the act will be modified somehow and the current situation will be taken into consideration, I think that they were disappointed with that invitation yesterday. Actually, we witnessed a wave of criticism directed towards Kiev by those who should ensure that states fulfill their obligations at the international level.
So, making acidic commentary on the statements of representatives of the relevant international bodies and non-governmental organizations, Mr. Klimkin said that he wishes that they came to Kiev, walked along the streets in different Ukrainian cities, listened to what language people speak. According to Mr. Klimkin, people speak in Russian. But nobody doubted and doubts that. The thing isn't that the law doesn't provide for that but it provides for the opposite. We know very well what language they speak and especially think in Ukraine.
So. Now, according to that act, Ukrainian should become a mandatory language in every field of the state's day-to-day activities, in government bodies, from central to local ones, healthcare, culture, education, mass media, housing and utility sector, consumer services, etc. The usage of minorities' languages is restricted. Although the blogosphere dedicated time and attention to it yesterday. It's nonsense to call Russian speakers a minority. So, the usage of minorities' languages is restricted to everyday communication and using those languages in religious customs. A system of penalties, which are absolutely wild for the 21st century, has been introduced. They're heavy administrative fines, which are to be imposed for a violation of the act. The act was adopted, excuse me for this tautology, in violation of human rights and constitutional norms without taking the opinions of Ukrainian citizens or international legal expertise into consideration.
In addition to that, the striving for total Ukrainization contradicts the action plan to fulfill the Minsk agreements, approved by the UN Security Council Resolution 2202 in the year 2014. Its provisions guarantee that Donbass residents have the right to language self-determination. I'd like to remind you that it's the language issue that catalyzed the internal crisis in Eastern Ukraine. There's no doubt that the fact that the act on the state language came into force will only delay peace settlement in Donbass and further aggravates the situation in that region. In this connection, we think that it's necessary to attract attention to such a flagrant violation of the Minsk agreements by Ukraine.
On July 16th, on Russia's initiative, the UN Security Council meeting still took place. It was dedicated to the fact that the given act came into force. Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs DiCarlo, who spoke there, admitted that national, cultural, language features and every population group in Ukraine should be respected. OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Zannier called upon Kiev to take the opinion of national minorities into consideration when drafting similar documents. I reiterate that, undoubtedly, I quote the relevant provisions of international conventions and practically directly quote international officials speaking about national minorities. I reiterate that I can't understand how they can call people talking and thinking in Russia and using it as the language of their life a national minority in Ukraine.
Another event that attracted attention yesterday was the Ukrainian constitutional court's decision that the notorious education law is consistent with the Ukrainian constitution. The law caused indignation not only in the country but abroad. We feel sorry that the body that is supposed to not only observe but to fight for abiding by the constitution is pandering to the political situation.
In the course of the election campaign when he wasn't a president but a candidate, President Zelensky promised to consider the language problem in Ukraine, which causes very heated arguments. Actually, this became a fateful thing for the Ukrainian state. Meanwhile, we receive quite contradictory signals from Kiev on my issues, including this one. There's no single opinion about that. The fact that the bill on the abolition of the law «On ensuring the functioning of Ukrainian as the official language» was introduced to the Verkhovnaya Rada yesterday shows that contradictions still exist.
You know, when I hear that this hesitation is a sign of freedom of thought, some democratic system in Ukraine, the creation of the new Ukrainian state, I think that it's a sign of the opposite, that chaos that is taking place in the country and the absence of not only a national consensus but even attempts to start working on one.
We think that any authority's task is not to split but to consolidate society. Especially in the situation when an internal conflict has been going on in the country for years. We'll keep following the development of events, and attract the international community's attention to violations of language rights in Ukraine.