Kiev passes law strengthening Ukrainian language use
The Ukraine parliament on Thursday passed a law enforcing the use of the Ukrainian language in official settings, a move likely to rile Russian-speaking areas of the country and Moscow.
Lawmakers approved the measure, which also increases the quota for Ukrainian-language television and radio programming, just days after Russian-speaking Volodymyr Zelensky was elected president.
Officials at all levels as well as doctors, teachers, lawyers and others, will have to speak Ukrainian or face fines. The law will not apply to private communications or religious rites, media reported.
The law will not be enforced for three years as centres are set up around the country to support the learning of Ukrainian language and culture, MP Nikolai Knyazhitsky told the Interfax-Ukraine news agency.
Outgoing President Petro Poroshenko on Twitter called the vote a "historic event", comparing it to the regeneration of the army and the creation of a unified Ukrainian church during his term in office.
President-elect Zelensky, a comedian who has played the role of president in a Russian-language drama but until now has had no political experience, often speaks in Russian.
The language law was approved a day after Russia made it easier for people living in eastern Ukraine's separatist territories to obtain Russian passports, drawing swift condemnation from Kiev.
Moscow and Kiev have been at loggerheads since a popular uprising in 2014 ousted a Kremlin-backed Ukrainian leadership.
Russia then annexed the Crimean peninsula and supported rebels in a separatist conflict in Ukraine's east that has so far claimed 13,000 lives.