No Russian minority in Ukraine – parliament speaker

A people that “does not show respect” cannot have any special minority rights, Ruslan Stefanchuk has said

Ukraine is not willing to recognize its Russian population as an ethnic minority or grant it any corresponding rights, the speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, Ruslan Stefanchuk, told the national TV broadcaster on Monday. Kiev has “reached full understanding” on this issue with the EU, he claimed.

Persecution of the Russian-speaking minority in the Donbass was one of the key reasons for taking military action in Ukraine in February 2022, according to Moscow. Russia has not been alone in objecting to the treatment of ethnic minorities in the country. Budapest and Bucharest have protested that the rights of ethnic Hungarians and Romanians, respectively, have been violated as well.

“There are no Russian ethnic minorities in Ukraine as of now and there can be none,” Stefanchuk said on air during a national TV broadcast. The speaker insisted that special rights should only be granted in accordance with “a principle of mutual respect.”

“If a people do not show respect but commit aggression against Ukraine, their rights should be infringed upon in this regard,” Stefanchuk stated, referring to the conflict between Kiev and Moscow.

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The Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, reacted to the statements by calling them the words of “the Nazis of the 21st century.” One of the few things lacking in the Ukrainian official’s speech was a Hitler salute, she added.

Stefanchuk claimed on Monday that Kiev had been able to convince both the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission and the EU Commission that its position on the issue is the right one. “We have reached full understanding here,” he said. Neither Brussels nor the Venice Commission have commented on so far.

Earlier this year, the Venice Commission urged Ukraine to improve the recognition of its national minorities if it hopes to enter the EU. The proposed reforms included publishing official state documents in minority languages, delaying the introduction of Ukrainian as the principal language in schools, providing interpreter services at Ukrainian public events, and ditching Ukrainian-language content quotas for minority media outlets. Currently, just 10% of a media outlet’s content can be broadcast in a minority language.

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Kiev is “not ready to even hold a discussion” on granting minority rights to Russians on Ukrainian territory, Stefanchuk maintained during the broadcast, accusing Moscow of committing “aggression” and “genocide of the Ukrainian people” and explaining that such people could not have any privileges in the country.

In June, the nation’s Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration, Olga Stefanishina, stated that “the notion of a Russian ethnic minority does not exist in Ukraine.” She also accused Moscow of not demonstrating enough interest in the issue for the rights of Russians to be clearly defined in Ukraine.

Moscow repeatedly raised concerns about the status of the Russian-speaking population and those who did not want to break ties with Russia in the wake of the 2014 Maidan coup. It also advocated granting the people of Donbass a special autonomous status as part of the derailed Minsk Agreements.

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