Complaints about Russian language use in Ukraine rise 30%
The number of complaints to authorities in Ukraine about people speaking in Russian in the course of professional services increased by 30% last year. Kiev actively encourages the population to report such cases in a bid to allegedly 'protect' the country from Russian influence.
According to the office of the commissioner for the protection of the state language, 3,692 language law violations were reported in 2023. Kiev, Kharkov, and Odessa remain “leaders in terms of the number of complaints of violations. Therefore, strict controls over the observance of the language rights of citizens in all spheres of public life should be among the priorities of community leaders this year,” Taras Kremen, the country’s Language Ombudsman said.
Kremen also confirmed that a 3,400 hryvnia ($89) fine had been imposed on a Kiev taxi driver who serviced his clients in Russian. The ombudsman reminded the public of a “detailed algorithm of actions in case of violation of the right to receive information or services in the state language,” urging people to immediately file complaints on the commissioner’s website when such cases occur.
In 2019, Ukraine adopted a law that makes using the Ukrainian language obligatory in all spheres of public life, including government, medicine, science, education, and the media. Failure to comply can result in fines. Since 2022, when the military conflict with Russia began, Ukraine has undertaken a campaign of total de-Russification, with MPs saying it is necessary in order to defend against Russian influence. Local authorities have introduced complete bans on Russian-language works of art, performances, books, films, songs, and its study in schools and universities, and recommended that schoolchildren communicate in Ukrainian even during breaks.
Last August, a teenage signer was briefly detained and forced to record a video apology following a performance of Soviet singer Viktor Tsoy’s songs on the street in the city of Lviv. The dismissal of several teachers who spoke Russian to their students also resulted in a public outcry.
The Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, Alexey Danilov, has previously said “the Russian language must disappear” from the territory of Ukraine “as an element of hostile propaganda and brainwashing of the population.”
Moscow maintains that such laws violate the rights of Russian-speaking people, who make up around half of Ukraine’s population. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in February that Kiev’s “discriminatory campaign” against the language was growing more and more “indignant.” In a survey conducted last September by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology, respondents cited language discrimination as the most common type of prejudice in Ukraine, with 45% saying it was a problem.