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Oct 11, 2021
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Will Europe start protecting Russians in Ukraine?

In the photo: a rally against the resumption of teaching in Russian in Ukrainian schools continues at the building of the Verkhovna Rada in Kiev.

In the photo: a rally against the resumption of teaching in Russian in Ukrainian schools continues at the building of the Verkhovna Rada in Kiev. (Photo: Zuma / TASS)

At the Ukraine-EU summit, which will be held on October 12, the issue of the Russian language will be raised, the head of European diplomacy assured Joseph Borrell

“I will be in Ukraine, at the Ukraine-EU Council, we will talk about security and defense. There are complaints from Russia about the attitude towards the Russian language in Ukraine, from Ukraine about the attitude towards the Ukrainian language in Russia, ”Borrell said at the New Economic Forum in Madrid.

What a news! Are you awake? Have you suddenly noticed the oppression of the Russian language in Ukraine? They somehow closed their eyes to the oppression of the Hungarian language, one of the languages ​​of the EU, and then suddenly they started talking about Russian …

Or is it just a statement that stands for nothing? Reverance towards Moscow?

– The wording of the headlines of the Russian media is often wishful thinking, – believes Head of the Union of Political Emigrants and Political Prisoners of Ukraine Larisa Shesler

– If we read the whole news, we will see what he said: “There are complaints from Russia about the attitude towards the Russian language in Ukraine, from Ukraine about the attitude towards the Ukrainian language in Russia.” Those. it is quite obvious that Borrell puts on the same level the position of the Russian language in Ukraine and the Ukrainian language in Russia.

This makes it possible to link the problem of discrimination against Russians in Ukraine with an obviously far-fetched problem.

“SP”: – And what do you think they will discuss there? Will they express concern? Or even that shouldn’t be counted on?

– From the point of view of European law, the deprivation of the opportunity for a national minority to receive education in their native language is a flagrant violation. Ukraine signed and ratified back in 2007 the European Charter on Regional and Minority Languages, which guarantees the right to receive education and the development of languages, but since then the situation with linguistic discrimination has only worsened.

However, given the complete indifference to the situation with the Russian language in the Baltic countries, one should not count on real steps and condemnation of the Ukrainian laws, which completely expelled the Russian language from the public sphere.

“SP”: – Does Brussels have any instruments of pressure on Ukraine?

– Of course, Ukraine is dependent on Western countries, therefore, if desired, one could find leverage to influence Ukraine from the European Union. The very fact, for example, of the condemnation in the European Parliament of the issue of Ukraine’s violation of the signed and ratified Charter on Regional Languages, could become a serious signal for the Ukrainian authorities. However, this will never happen.

Ukraine is viewed by Europe as an instrument in the fight against Russia, and therefore Borrell’s intentions and statements are imitative.

“SP”: – Does the EU even care about the position of the Russian language in Ukraine?

– If in the conflict between Hungary and Ukraine over the law on education, the European Union actually took the side of Ukraine, and not the EU member Hungary, what can we say about the protection of the rights of Russian speakers in Ukraine on the part of the European Union?

The Venice Commission issued certain recommendations on the discriminatory national minority Law on Education of Ukraine, and the Ukrainian government somewhat softened it, but only with respect to the “languages ​​of the EU countries”, i.e. only in relation to Hungarian and Romanian.

The European Union was satisfied with such a situation, but Hungary nevertheless remained strongly disagree with even a softer version.

“SP”: – By the way, the Hungarians actively defend their own without the help of Brussels. And what is the attitude of the EU to this?

– Yes, indeed, the Hungarians continue to actively oppose even the law “Ukraine on education” which is noticeably softened for the languages ​​of the European Union. They continue to block all initiatives of Ukraine to integrate into the European Union and NATO, quite reasonably considering Ukrainian laws to be discriminatory.

In the Ukrainian media, the anti-Hungarian rhetoric has almost equaled the anti-Russian one, the SBU is instituting cases against Hungarian activists in Uzhgorod, the Hungarians receive written threats from Ukrainian radicals, and this once again provokes a stormy and well-grounded reaction from the Hungarian authorities.

However, in their actions the Hungarians remain practically alone, and the European Union has taken a neutral position, referring to the toothless conclusions of the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe.

“SP”: – And how will they react if Russia starts to defend? And will it start?

– The European Union has nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, Russia cannot use humanitarian levers, since they do not exist, and Moscow does not want to use economic levers, which are quite effective.

So Russia continued to supply the missing electricity at the request of Ukraine in the spring of 2021, when the energy system of Ukraine was in a desperate situation. Although it would be very logical to put forward some kind of reciprocal demands in the field of humanitarian law. There are many such points of influence on Ukraine, but the Russian government continues to play with nobility, even to the detriment of its own interests.


– European structures and international human rights organizations periodically pay attention to the language policy of the Ukrainian state, but do not focus on this topic when communicating with official Kiev, – notes Evgeny Valyaev, political analyst of the Foundation for the Development of Civil Society Institutions “People’s Diplomacy”

– In 2019, the Venice Commission at the Council of Europe recommended Ukraine to revise its language policy in order to avoid interethnic tensions. The Ukrainian authorities are pursuing a policy of forcible de-Russification of citizens; they exert administrative pressure on the Russian language, upsetting the fragile linguistic balance.

The Russian language is deliberately made a political factor, the fight against which Kiev puts on a par with its other anti-Russian steps. At least thirty-five percent of Ukrainian citizens consider Russian to be their native language, and even more people use it in their everyday life.

Kiev after 2014 sees no difference between its Russian-speaking citizens and Russian agents of influence. This approach creates discriminatory conditions for Russian-speaking Ukrainians. The question of language continues to split the Ukrainian society; they are trying to make Russian the language of second-class citizens.

Since September 1, 2020, Russian-language schools have been liquidated in Ukraine by the law “On complete general secondary education”. Another discriminatory language norm came into force in early 2021, further restricting the use of the Russian language – Ukrainian businesses must serve consumers and provide information exclusively in Ukrainian.

This linguistic discriminatory law was passed under Petro Poroshenko, but Vladimir Zelensky did nothing to stop its introduction, so it is the incumbent’s responsibility to increase discrimination.

Forced Ukrainization, according to Ukrainian politicians, should supposedly lead to national unity. The Ukrainian elite dreams of the Ukrainians not having any ties with Russia. European authorities and international human rights organizations should pay more attention to this issue, it is necessary to put pressure on the Ukrainian authorities on the language issue – Kiev should be called upon to revise the law on ensuring the functioning of the Ukrainian language as a state language and oblige to protect the languages ​​of national minorities.

“SP”: – At the same time, Europe does not stand up for the Hungarians either. Every man for himself?

– There is no single approach to language policy that would be adopted in Europe to show Kiev how to act. Each country builds its own policy in this matter, striving for linguistic balance and respect for the rights of linguistic groups.

Today’s Kiev does not use the approaches and principles accepted in Europe when building a balanced language policy. In particular, it is impossible to prescribe such serious sanctions following the violation of paragraphs of the language law. Conditions have been created in Ukraine when sanctions for violation of the language law can be used against politicians and public figures who speak Russian.

As long as the Ukrainian elites see Russian as a manifestation of Russian “soft power” and do not consider Russian as one of the languages ​​of modern Ukraine, the problems will continue. Kiev, by its pressure, creates conditions under which the Russian language is increasingly striving for the status of a “protest language”. It would be advantageous for Kiev to depoliticize this issue by ceasing to struggle with the Russian language.

“SP”: – Does Russia have any leverage over the situation?

– Moscow cannot influence the de-Russification policy pursued by Kiev, since there is no dialogue between the countries. It would be beneficial for Russia to restore diplomatic and intercultural relations with Ukraine. Russia needs to respond to the policy of linguistic closeness of Ukraine with a policy of openness towards Ukrainian citizens – more humanitarian programs, training programs for Ukrainian youth in Russian universities are needed, it is necessary to simplify the acquisition of Russian citizenship by Ukrainian citizens. Russia should support the desire of the inhabitants of Ukraine to learn Russian and use it in everyday life.

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