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Russia's foreign minister said on Saturday that the government
Russia's foreign minister said on Saturday that the government will do everything in its power to ensure that Russian TV channels re-appear on Ukrainian television screens.

Ukraine's television and radio broadcasting authority has banned the transmission of Russian TV channels not adapted to Ukrainian television as of November 1.

"We will protect the broadcasting rights of our TV companies in line with common practice in Ukraine, and thereby insist on respecting the rights of Ukraine's Russian-speaking population, which must have access to all media," Sergei Lavrov said.

The Foreign Ministry earlier voiced its concern over Kiev's decision, saying the ban would harm bilateral relations.

Lavrov said that although he did not want to draw a parallel with Georgia, a similar ban was imposed in the South Caucasus state, for political reasons, after the five-day conflict over South Ossetia in August.

"Ukrainian authorities say our companies do not comply with Ukrainian laws. If this is true and there is no politics involved, this issue can be resolved through negotiations," Lavrov said, stressing that Russian TV companies are ready for talks.

The Foreign Ministry earlier said Ukrainian organizations and individuals have repeatedly complained about the clampdown on Russian-language broadcasts. Since the breakup of the Soviet Union language has been a contentious issue in relations between Russia and Ukraine, where some political forces have pushed for measures to strengthen the country's Ukrainian identity.

The Russian language does not have official status in Ukraine, but is widely spoken, especially in eastern Ukraine, the Crimean Peninsula and Kiev. A large share of the population speak Ukrainian as a second language, and many speak only Russian.

Ukraine cautioned Russia in May that it could stop retranslating Russian language channels over their alleged biased coverage of "sensitive bilateral issues." The warning came after Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov said the Crimea should be part of Russia.

His emotional statement echoed warnings by other Russian politicians that Russia could reclaim the Crimea, now an autonomy, if Ukraine was admitted to NATO, one of a key goals of the country's Western-leaning government.

The Crimea, which has a predominantly ethnic Russian population, was Russian territory until Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchyov ceded it to Ukraine in 1954. Russia's Black Sea Fleet uses a range of naval facilities in the peninsula as part of a 1997 agreement, under which Ukraine agreed to lease the bases to Russia until 2017.


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