KIEV, Ukraine -- Lawmakers of Ukraine's pro-presidential Party of Regions have submitted to the parliament a bill, allowing the use of Russian language in during legal proceedings.
Under the current legislation, legal proceedings can be carried out solely in Ukrainian language.
"Legal proceedings solely in the state language create barriers and sometimes make it impossible to defend rights and interests protected by the law, which is a violation of the Ukrainian constitution's Article 55," a summary of the bill, published on the parliament's official website, said.
Ukraine's new government said in early April it would give "broad cultural autonomy" to the country's regions, including to choose the main language used in local government and schools.
The bill, authored by Party of Regions lawmakers Serhiy Kyvalov and Vadym Kolesnychenko, was first introduced to the Supreme Rada in 2007, but was rejected. It allows a court to switch to Russian-language if both parties involved in legal proceedings show consent.
The summary stresses that the bill is not aimed at limiting the use of Ukrainian as a state language and contains no provisions which change its status.
"The bill does not give the state language status to Russian, both explicitly and implicitly," the summary reads.
Ukraine's president, Viktor Yanukovych, was elected in February on the back of strong support in the largely Russian-speaking south and east of the country, but was less popular in the more nationalist west.
He has said that he would like to make Russian a second state language, but the balance of power in the country makes it unlikely that any political force could secure the votes in parliament necessary to change the constitution.
The governing coalition, led by Yanukovych's Party of Regions, is therefore likely to incorporate the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages into Ukrainian law, which would allow individual regions to use Russian — or other widely spoken languages — for official communication and schooling.
Yanukovych's election sparked fears that he would seek to align Ukraine too closely with Russia, but he has been careful to court the European Union as well, and the language policies are being promoted as part of a wider platform of tolerance.