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22 september

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“We are concerned about the situation of the Russian-speaking population in Ukraine and the Baltic states” – Ivan Abazher

Ivan Abazher, a member of the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation, took part in the UN’s European Regional Forum

“We are concerned about the situation of the Russian-speaking population in Ukraine and the Baltic states” – Ivan Abazher

On September 21-22, the European Regional Forum on Hate Speech, Social Media and Minorities was held via videoconference.

Member of the Civic Chamber representing the Republic of Crimea, Director of the Bulgarian cultural center “Izvor” Ivan Abazher delivered a speech where he outlined the provisions of the Constitution of the Republic of Crimea, which has been in effect since 2014 protecting the rights and freedoms of the population.

In particular, the Constitution of the Republic stipulates that the state languages in Crimea are Russian, Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar and that the principle of cultural diversity shall be recognized, ensuring the equal development and mutual enrichment of cultures.

Furthermore, he noted that on the territory of the peninsula there were no restrictions on the rights of national minorities to receive education or use their native language as the language of communication, education and creativity.

An example of this is the existence and activity of public organizations representing national minorities – Bulgarian, Armenian, Greek, German, Crimean Tatar, Ukrainian and many others. There are also Sunday schools, groups for studying national languages, national media outlets, as well as theaters and museums (including Crimean Tatar ones).

“At the same time, I cannot but express my concern over the situation regarding the Bulgarian ethnic minority in Ukraine, which is mainly concentrated in the Odessa and Zaporozhye regions. The authorities of today's nationalist Ukraine have established Ukrainian as the sole language of education and communication in government bodies, and other public spheres (for instance, television and radio broadcasting, and the mass media),” Ivan Abazher was cited as saying.

For example, in March 2020, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky signed a law on secondary education, which provides for a gradual reduction in instruction in languages of national minorities, including Russian. Higher education is also carried out solely in Ukrainian.

Countries in the EU such as Hungary and Bulgaria have expressed dissatisfaction with the current situation. Bulgaria expressed concern in regard to the violation of rights of the Bulgarian population in Ukraine during the implementation of administrative reforms. The Russian Federation is also concerned about the violation of the rights of the Russian-speaking population.

“It is obvious that the Ukrainian authorities systematically violate the rights of ethnic and linguistic groups. Ukrainian nationalism will inevitably lead and is already leading to the disintegration of this country, depopulation due to an exodus from this country, as well as the degradation of all spheres of life (social, economic, political, etc.),” stated the Civic Chamber member.

According to Ivan Abazher, it is necessary to once again oblige Ukraine to take into account the rights of national minorities to receive education in their own languages and use them at the state level. And also to comply with the expert opinion of the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Council of Europe’s Venice Commission), which confirmed the presence of discriminatory provisions in the Ukrainian law "On Education." A critical assessment of this document was also given by the Council’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) resolution on protection and promotion of regional or minority languages in Europe dated January 23, 2018. And in December 2018, the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Lamberto Zannier stressed that Ukraine should remain a country open to all nationalities and they should have the right to use their native languages.

“On our part, we are deeply troubled by the situation with the Russian-speaking population in Ukraine and the Baltic states in light of the adoption of discriminatory linguistic laws. The rights of minorities are being infringed upon, including linguistic ones,” emphasized Ivan Abazher.

It is expected that the outcome of the discussions at the European Regional Forum will be taken into account in the form of practical recommendations and reviewed in November at a forum on minority issues. The findings will also be included in case studies of the HRC’s Special Procedures during the upcoming 13th session of the UN Human Rights Council, aimed at addressing similar issues.

Tags: Ivan Abazher

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