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Donetsk regional council demands official status for Russian language

March 31, 2014, 20:22 UTC+3 KIEV

74.9% of the region’s population consider Russian their native tongue

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KIEV, March 31. /ITAR-TASS/. The Donetsk Regional Council on Monday, March 31, asked the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) of Ukraine to take measures towards stabilising the situation in the country.

The current crisis in the country can be “settled only by amending the Constitution”, the Council said in its appeal to the Verkhovna Rada.

Council members believe it necessary for “the Constitutional Assembly to resume work immediately and start drafting a new version of the constitution that would guarantee decentralisation of government by giving the local authorities broader powers and responsibility for the state of affairs in the region, the creation of regional and district executive bodies, and the formation (pending parliamentary elections) of a two-chamber parliament, where the upper house will express the interests of regions and its members will have the right of legislative initiative,” the appeal said.

The deputies demanded that “Russian be given the status of a second official language by making necessary alterations to the Constitution of Ukraine”. They also believe it necessary to respect “historical, ethnic and cultural traditions of the Donetsk region population and take into account the fact that Russian is a language of communication for people in the region and has been recognised as a regional language (according to statistics, 74.9% of the region’s population consider Russian their native tongue, 24.1% use Ukrainian)”.

The deputies also asked the Verkhovna Rada to “urgently consider the possibility of adopting a law on local referendum after broad public discussion” and stressed that “any issue regulated by the local authorities… can be submitted to a local referendum”.

On March 3, the Donetsk Regional Council voted to hold a regional referendum on the free use of the Russian language and other minority languages in the region, and on the inadmissibility of cuts in social allowances and increases in utility rates. The council asked the Ukrainian parliament to adopt a law on local referendum without delay.

About 2,000 people rallied in Donetsk on March 22, demanding a referendum on the future of the region. However, the prosecutor’s office said the Regional Council’s decision to hold a referendum be cancelled as unlawful.

The office filed a petition with the district administrative court asking it to cancel the council’s decision of March 3, 2014, which authorised a referendum in the Donetsk region. Prosecutors said the decision “was adopted in excess of power and contradicts the Constitution of Ukraine and effective legislation”. Under law, the Donetsk Regional Council may not make decisions on referenda.

The Council’s decision has been suspended pending court ruling.

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