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Protests, Fistfight In Parliament Over Ukrainian Draft Law On Languages

  • RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service

The speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, Volodymyr Lytvyn (right), looks on as deputies scuffle during debate over the draft law on languages.

The speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, Volodymyr Lytvyn (right), looks on as deputies scuffle during debate over the draft law on languages.

KYIV -- More than 1,000 activists of nationalist and opposition groups picketed the Ukrainian parliament building on May 24 to protest the ruling Party of Regions proposed draft law on languages.

The protesters were holding placards saying "Hands Off The Language," "Down With Muscovite Occupants, Down With Moscow’s Slaves," "Bilingualism Equals Russification," and "Single Nation, Single Language -- Ukrainian!"

Meanwhile, a fistfight erupted in parliament during debate on the draft law, which recommends introducing Russian as the second official language in 13 of 27 regions of Ukraine.

The fight broke out between members of the pro-Western opposition and lawmakers from President Viktor Yanukovych's party, which bases its support in Ukraine's Russian-speaking east.

At least one legislator, opposition lawmaker Mykola Petruk, suffered an apparent blow to the head and was taken to the hospital with blood streaming down his face.

PHOTO GALLERY: Fistfight in the Ukrainian parliament

The opposition demanded an investigation.

Ukraine is politically divided into the Russian-speaking east and south, which favors close ties with Moscow, and the Ukrainian speaking west, which wants closer ties with NATO and the European Union.

Jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko issued a statement via her Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party members, calling the proposed draft law on languages "a crime against the Ukrainian nation."

With reporting by UNIAN

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