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Thousands Of Ukrainians Protest Initial Approval Of Russian-Language Bill

Ukrainian Protesters Dispersed By Tear Gas
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WATCH: Ukrainian language protesters dispersed by tear gas (RFE/RL's Kyiv bureau)

Thousands of protesters have demonstrated outside the Ukrainian parliament after lawmakers gave initial approval to legislation that would make Russian an official language in some regions alongside Ukrainian.

The bill was passed in the first of two readings on June 5 -- with 234 deputies in the 450-seat chamber voting in favor -- in the face of vehement protests by opposition lawmakers.

Following the vote, opposition factions vowed to set up a tent camp outside the legislature as part of a long-term protest against the measure.

A debate on the proposal last month led to a fistfight between lawmakers that left one deputy hospitalized.

Under the bill, Ukrainian would remain the only official language in the country, but Russian could be used in courts, hospitals, and other institutions in majority Russian-speaking regions in the eastern part of the country.

With reporting by AP and UNIAN