By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Ukraine’s president has signed into law a controversial bill that makes Ukrainian the required language of study in state schools from the fifth grade on.
Petro Poroshenko signed the measure September 25 after days of criticism, particularly from Ukraine’s ethnic minorities.
The bill does not outlaw other language instructions; students can still learn their native languages as a separate subject.
But that hasn’t assuaged the fears of groups, such as Poles, Romanians, and Hungarians, all of whom have sizable ethnic communities in Ukraine.
Russia has been particularly vociferous in its criticism,which asserted this month that the law was designed to “forcefully establish a mono-ethnic language regime in a multinational state.”
Language has become a hot-button issue across the country particularly since in the eastern regions where the majority of the populations speaks Russian as its first language.
The bill’s language requirement overturns a 2012 law passed under Moscow-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia two years later amid mass street protests.
That legislation allowed for minorities to introduce their languages in regions where they represented more than 10 percent of the population.