Ukraine's Opposition Refuses to Back Anti-Hate Bill

Apr 03, 2013, 06:32 ET from Ukraine Monitor

KYIV, Ukraine, April 3, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --

Minority groups in Ukraine have suffered a setback in the wake of the refusal of opposition MPs - including those from the parties of Yulia Tymoshenko and boxer Vitaly Klitschko - to support a resolution that would prohibit "hate speech and degrading expressions".

The draft bill was introduced to the Rada (Parliament) by an MP from the ruling Party of Regions and was expected to be uncontentious since it would move to ban terms that are offensive to Jews and other minorities.

But while 169 MPs from the Party of Regions readily supported the draft bill, there was a mass vote against it by members of the ultra-nationalist Svoboda Party, which was unsurprising considering the party has been openly anti-Semitic.

In fact, back in December it was reported that lawmaker Igor Miroshnichenko of Svoboda wrote on Facebook that Mila Kunis, an American actress who was born in Ukraine, was a "Jewess." He used the offensive term "zhydovka".

"The last time this term was used in an official way was during the Nazi occupation," said Eduard Dolinsky, Director of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, who urged for the passing of the anti-hate bill.

But many of the abstentions from the vote came as a surprise. Almost all the members of heavyweight boxer Vitaly Klitschko's Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform (UDAR) abstained, doubtless conscious of their support base in the nation's east and south.

And 58 members of Yulia Tymoshenko's Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) bloc voted against the bill, a move that is expected to raise concerns from her supporters in the West.

A government spokesman said: "This was a measure to promote tolerance and outlaw hate speech and degrading expressions, but by their actions opposition MPs have raised questions that go to the heart of their true values."

The bill would have been the first step in banning the use of highly offensive terms, including words like "kike", "khokhol" and "moskal" but because of the abstentions it received only 208 votes, while 226 were needed for it to pass. This means it does not advance in the Rada.

In its quest for European integration, Ukraine has pursued a reform agenda aimed at protecting minorities and those most vulnerable in society. In February, Ukraine's Foreign Minister, Leonid Kozhara, announced a new law prohibiting discrimination against gays, which will afford them protection in line with nations in the European Union.

SOURCE Ukraine Monitor