On December 11 Russian media launched a new wave of fakes claiming Ukraine’s language police will punish children for speaking Russian, so-called language fuhrers, will even fine kindergartens in their zealous drive to enforce the use of Ukrainian. Not only will they be fined, but also subjected to “language correctional labor” and recent raids conducted by the language inspectors are already beating up Russian speakers. This wave of language hysteria was a reaction to the recent appointment of Tetiana Monakhova as Commissioner for the Protections of the Ukrainian language.
Language inspectors are successfully operating in a number of Ukrainian regions. These authorized representatives, usually veterans of the war in the east, regularly conduct language raids not only in state institutions, but also in schools supermarkets, and even public transport, writes Ukraina.ru.
In fact, no one in Ukraine has ever been fined, jailed or punished in any way for speaking Russian, whereas speaking Ukrainian is often punished by extreme violence. On November 29 in the eastern city of Bakhmut, Ukrainian activist Artem Miroshnichenko was violently beaten by two young men for answering them in Ukrainian. He died from his injuries a week later.
This latest wave of language hysteria continues the Kremlin’s well-honed anti-Ukrainian language narrative with claims of Russophobia, oppression of Russian speakers in Ukraine and alleged punishment for speaking Russian. Using exactly these types of arguments, Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014 and launched a war against Ukrainians and Ukrainian speakers.
Virulent Russian articles against the use of Ukrainian increased substantially after Tetiana Monakhova, Ukraine’s newly appointed language ombudsman held a press- conference in which she outlined her main challenge – ensuring the rights of Ukrainian citizens to receive information and services in the state language, Ukrainian.
Monakhova will begin carrying out her duties in six months when the Office of the Commissioner for the Protection of the State Language is established. Until then, Ukrainians can file complaints about their Ukrainian language rights violations with the Ombudsman.
Contrary to Russian media claims, there is no language police or language fuhrers in Ukraine and there never will be. Ukraine’s law on Safeguarding the functionality of Ukrainian as the state language which went into effect July 16 of this year does not call for any such structures. Russian scaremongering about rounding up and beating up Russian speakers are aimed at discrediting the new law and they are simply not true. There are no corrective labor measures for using Russian envisaged in the new law, Monakhova emphasized and reminded everyone that violations of the law would be dealt with administratively and not earlier than in a few years.
Furthermore, no one is going to fine children for using Russian. This distortion emerged after Monakhova was asked how the rights of Ukrainian speaking children would be protected in the supplementary education sphere, such as sports as currently most such trainings are conducted in Russian. As extra-curricular activities are within the scope of the Ministry of Education, they are obliged to comply with the rules of the new language law, which stipulates that Ukrainian should be the default language. If coaches refuse to work in Ukrainian, they are in violation of the law, Monakhova pointed out. If they do continue to flaunt the law even after being warned, they will be fined.
Punishing children for speaking Russian was never mentioned during Monakhova’s press conference.