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Kyiv, Sofia Clash Over Ukraine's Plan To Redraw District Lines In Ethnic Bulgarian Region

There are hundreds of thousands of ethnic Bulgarians living in Ukraine. (file photo)
There are hundreds of thousands of ethnic Bulgarians living in Ukraine. (file photo)

Ukraine and Bulgaria have clashed over Kyiv’s plans to change administrative divisions within a district in the southern Odesa region with a sizeable ethnic-Bulgarian minority.

Ukraine's Foreign Ministry on May 21 protested a resolution adopted by Bulgaria's parliament that urges the government to intervene, claiming that the division of the Bolhrad district in Ukraine into several districts would change the territory’s demographic statistics, thus depriving the ethnic Bulgarian population of the status of a sizeable minority there.

According to Bulgarian lawmakers, such a division might lead to abolishing education in Bulgarian for some 300,000 ethnic Bulgarians residing in the district.

Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said that the issues related to "the administrative-territorial structure of Ukraine fall within the exclusive competence of the state authorities of Ukraine."

"Attempts by a foreign state to interfere in the internal affairs of Ukraine are completely unacceptable," the statement said.

The issue of ethnic minorities and their languages has become a major issue in Ukraine in recent years.

In 2017, amid harsh criticism from ethnic minorities, Ukraine adopted a new language law that overturned 2012 legislation which allowed minorities to introduce their languages in regions where they represented more than 10 percent of the population.

The move was criticized by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which said the new law "does not appear to strike an appropriate balance between the official language and the languages of national minorities."

Notable minority groups in Ukraine include Russians, Poles, Romanians, and Hungarians.

The law has also incensed officials in other neighboring countries, particularly Russia, which used the language issue as one of the justifications for its forcible seizure of Crimea in 2014 and the backing of pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine where some 13,200 people have been killed since violence broke out in April 2014.

With reporting by Ukrinform and Radio Bulgaria
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