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Ukrainian Lawmakers Back Ban On Ribbon Embraced As Patriotic Symbol In Russia


The Ukrainian parliament has approved legislation introducing fines and potential jail time for people who appear in public wearing a black-and-orange ribbon widely viewed a patriotic emblem in Russia, but which many Ukrainians see as a symbol of Russian aggression.

Lawmakers in the Verkhovna Rada on May 16 passed the bill taking aim at the St. George's ribbon, which has become a state-embraced symbol of military valor in Russia, where it is associated with commemorations of the 1945 victory over Nazi Germany.

For many in Ukraine, however, the ribbon has come to symbolize Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine in a war against government forces that has killed at least 9,940 people since April 2014.

If signed into law by President Petro Poroshenko, the bill would introduce fines of up to 2,550 hryvnyas ($96) for those who publicly use, display, or wear the ribbon -- and up to double that amount or 15 days in jail for repeat offenders.

The bill, whose passage triggered angry responses from Russian officials, included an explanatory note saying it would help strengthen "public order."

It allows the display of the ribbon in several instances, including on official state documents, flags, and awards issued before 1991, as well as in museums, on gravesites, and in personal collections and archives.

Nationalist lawmaker Anton Herashchenko said the bill will help battle "Russian aggression."

In a May 16 Facebook post, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova denounced the parliament's backing of the bill as "antidemocratic and antihistorical."

Frants Klintsevich, a senior lawmaker and prominent foreign-policy voice in Russia's upper chamber of parliament, accused Ukraine of declaring "all the veterans of the Great Patriotic War its enemies."

The bill was approved with 238 votes, 12 more than required for passage.

The vote came the same day that Poroshenko imposed sanctions on several leading Russian social networks and search engines, ordering them to be restricted or blocked entirely in Ukraine.

With reporting by UNIAN, Gordonua.com, and Interfax
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