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4 Feb, 2010 10:37

Court waives ban on Russian language in Ukrainian schools

Ukraine’s Constitutional Court has overruled the government’s decree which forbid teachers from speaking Russian language in schools.

The controversial language ban was introduced in September last year. It said that teachers at state and communal schools in Ukraine could not speak any language but Ukrainian when at work, even between lessons.

The court announced on Thursday that the Cabinet had overstepped its authority, since only laws produced by legislative bodies can regulate the use of languages in schools.

The ruling comes after a request from the Ukrainian parliament. Fifty-two deputies asked the Court to provide a legal assessment of the decree.

“As it happens, language policies in our country are a sensitive issue, especially during an election campaign. But the Constitutional Court acted on this case in strict accordance with the Constitution and laws and did not seek to politicize the issue in any way,” commented Chair of the Court Andrey Strizhak.

Use of Russian language and the attempts of Ukrainian authorities to limit it is a major point of dispute in Ukraine. Yulia Timoshenko has been pushing for giving privileged treatment to the Ukrainian language as befitting the country’s only state language. Her rival at the presidential elections, Victor Yanukovich, believes it violates the rights of the country’s large Russian-speaking minority and promised to make Russian a second state language.