The speaker of the Ukrainian parliament said Wednesday that he was against the idea of holding a referendum on the status of the Russian language in the country, RIA Novosty reported.

"Referendums are not held in an unstable country with unstable society," Volodymyr Lytvyn said during a meeting with potential voters in the run-up to the March 26 parliamentary elections.

He said Russian, which is widely spoken in many regions, should not become an official language as it would replace Ukrainian. "This is impossible in a country called Ukraine," said the speaker, who is considered by some to be pro-Russian.

With the parliamentary polls approaching, the status of Russian has become something of a battleground, but Lytvyn, who heads his own eponymous bloc, said people who could speak no language perfectly were raising the issue of two languages.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said earlier that he did not welcome the decision by the authorities of Ukraine's second largest city, Kharkov, to make Russian a regional language.

"This campaign does not correspond with Ukrainian interests," he said.

The city authorities in Kharkov, which is in the Russian-speaking stronghold of eastern Ukraine, decided to grant the Russian language the status of a regional language referring to the Ukrainian parliament's ratification of the European Charter of Regional Languages.


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