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Russian Leader Skirts Trouble Over Ukrainian Media Law

Putin (left) and Kuchma (far right). Archive photo 23 April 2004 -- Russian President Vladimir Putin said today the language of Ukrainian television and radio programs should not be made a "subject of confrontation."

Putin's comments at a Russian-Ukrainian interparliamentary conference came after a Ukrainian government agency recently banned Russian-language radio and television programming, calling it unconstitutional.

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said yesterday the decision by the National Council for Radio and Television was unconstitutional and should be "reviewed."

Reports say up to half of Ukraine's 48 million people call themselves Russian speakers, and about 25 percent are ethnic Russians. Until now, many Ukrainian television and radio stations have broadcast both in Russian and Ukrainian.