Ukraine has adopted a new language policy which marks the nation’s continued departure from the protocols outlined in the Minsk Agreements of 2014, indicating that linguistic tension remains a major issue in the country. The policy—which was passed in 2019 and took effect beginning July 16, according to a report from TASS Russian News Agency—requires television channels to broadcast at least 90% of their content in the Ukrainian language and also requires state-sponsored cultural events to be conducted in Ukrainian.
“On July 16, new language regulations took effect in Ukraine that mark another step away from the Minsk Agreements, which provide Donbass with the right to linguistic self-determination,” said Boris Gryzlov, the Russian envoy to the contact group on resolving the situation in Donbass (a region in the eastern part of Ukraine with a large proportion of Russian speakers). The Minsk Agreements (also known as the Minsk Protocol) were signed in 2014 in an effort to stop the war in Donbass, which saw significant unrest during the aftermath of the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution.
Many see this move as one of many policies aimed at antagonizing the country’s northeastern neighbor: Russia. The country has also adopted policies that would make Ukrainian the mandatory language of the service industry, as well as policies that require Ukrainian proficiency tests, effectively making the language obligatory in schools too. Less than 70% of the country uses the language as their primary language, and a sizeable minority (29.6%) use Russian as their primary language. In addition, Ukraine also adopted a bill titled On the Indigenous Peoples of Ukraine on July 1 mandating special linguistic and cultural accommodations for certain people considered indigenous to Ukraine—notably, this bill did not include Russians. The bill does, however, include special protections for Crimean Tatars, Karaite Jews, and Krymchaks, ensuring that they will be able to receive education in their native languages and allowing them to create representative bodies to defend the interests of their constituents. Russian president Vladimir Putin condemned the bill, accusing Ukraine of adopting segregationist policies, even going as far as to compare the bill to the policies of Nazi Germany.