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 heavyweight boxer Vitaly Klitschko—to support a resolution that would prohibit “hate speech and degrading expressions,” Ukraine Monitor reported.
The draft bill, banning terms that are offensive to Jews and other minorities, was introduced to the Rada (Parliament) by an MP from the ruling Party of Regions, and supported by its 169 MPs. But the openly anti-Semitic Svoboda Party opposed it.
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 “zhydovka,” an offensive term for a female Jew.
“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 the passing of the anti-hate bill.
Almost all the members of Klitschko’s Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform (UDAR) abstained, and 58 members of Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) bloc voted against the bill.
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 toward banning the use of highly offensive terms, including words like “kike,” “khokhol” and “moskal,” but because of the abstentions it received only 208 votes, short of the needed 226.
In its quest of integration into the European Union, the 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 European Union standards.