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Statement by High Commissioner for Human Rights in Russian Federation on protection of rights of Russian-speaking population in Ukraine

30 July 2021
Statement by High Commissioner for Human Rights in Russian Federation on protection of rights of Russian-speaking population in Ukraine

During the last several years we have witnessed ongoing violations of the rights of the Russian-speaking population on the modern-day territory of Ukraine. By refusing to recognize their historical, cultural and ethnic roots, the authorities of the state have discriminated against more than half of its residents.

I have repeatedly raised these concerns in my Annual Reports and at meetings with the heads of international human rights organizations, and I have to regretfully admit that these segregationist tendencies have only intensified.

The Law of Ukraine "On ensuring the functioning of the Ukrainian language as the state language" of April 25, 2019 is another evidence of the ongoing policy of total ukrainization of the population. Restrictions on television and radio broadcasting, the introduction of a ban on education in the Russian language, and the mass shutdown of Russian-language channels are only a few of many restrictions imposed by this law.

Although violations of the rights of the Russian-speaking population have been documented and criticized by international organizations, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, the law continues to affect more and more aspects of public life.

Since July 16, 2021, in accordance with the provisions of this law, the cultural rights of the Russian-speaking population have been drastically restricted. The Ukrainian language becomes the only possible language to be used for distribution and demonstration of films, tourist and excursion services, organization of art exhibitions, holding cultural and entertainment events.

At the same time, in all of these cases, the use of official languages of the European Union is allowed.

Another new development that aggravates the situation with the Russian language in Ukraine is the adoption of the Law of Ukraine "On Indigenous Peoples of Ukraine" on July 1, 2021, which was drafted at the initiative of the President of Ukraine. The law stipulates that Russians in Ukraine cannot be considered an indigenous people and therefore do not have the right to respect for their identity, protection of their linguistic affiliation, and the establishment of educational institutions with education in their native language.

Thus, the Russian language is subjected to twofold discrimination, firstly, in relation to the languages of the indigenous peoples of Ukraine and, secondly, in relation to the languages of the national minorities, which are the official languages of the EU.

Such attempts of the Ukrainian authorities "to spread awareness of the Ukrainian language and its role in the development of the European culture" totally contradict international law and essentially prevent full realization of the rights of the Russian-speaking population, which represents more than half of the population of Ukraine.

In order to bring this problem to the attention of the world community, on 22 July, 2021 the Russian Federation brought its first inter-State complaint against the Ukrainian authorities before the European Court of Human Rights.

On my part, I call on my colleagues, the heads of international human rights organizations and ombudsman integration associations, to pay particular attention to the deteriorating situation of the Russian-speaking population in Ukraine and to take all possible measures to prevent further discrimination and linguistic segregation.

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