Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich has threatened to call snap elections after his allies sparked a political crisis by rushing through a new law boosting the status of the Russian language. More than 1,000 protesters clashed with police in central Kiev yesterday, parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn and one of his deputies announced their resignations, and seven politicians went on hunger strike over the law, which was passed on Tuesday evening. The vote took place amid chaotic scenes in parliament after an unexpected proposal by a pro-Yanukovich deputy. The speed of events prevented opposition parties debating the legislation or gathering all their deputies in the chamber for the vote. “I was cheated, Ukraine was cheated, the people were cheated,” Mr Lytvyn said. He was not present for the vote, and accused a deputy who presided over Tuesday’s session of betrayal.
Police used tear gas and batons to disperse protesters yesterday morning, and a Kiev court later announced a ban lasting several days on public gatherings in the city centre. “There are all signs of a real political crisis in Ukraine and it will develop further,” said opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk. The new law raises the status of Russian to allow it to be used instead of Ukrainian in schools, public offices and courts in 11 regions where it is spoken widely.