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Ukraine: Constitutional Court Bans Official Display of Red Flags

(July 1, 2011) On June 17, 2011, the Constitutional Court of Ukraine ruled that the red flag cannot have the same official status as a state symbol as the national flag. The Constitutional Court recognized that the red flag is the symbol of the Soviet armed forces and symbolizes the victory of Soviet people over fascist Germany in World War II, but it cannot be a state symbol of Ukraine and cannot be used in official displays together with the Ukrainian national flag during state holidays. The idea of the joint display of the two flags on WWII Victory Day was proposed to the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine's legislature) by the country's president, Viktor Yanukovich. (Constitutional Court Repealed the Red Flag Law [in Russian], UNIAN (June 17, 2011).)

On April 21, 2011, the Verkhovna Rada passed an amendment to the 2000 Law on Memorializing the Victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-45, which required that a replica of the red flag that was placed over the Reichstag in Berlin in May 1945 be raised together with the Ukrainian national flag on May 9, Victory Day. Later, the amendment was signed into law by President Yanukovich. (Id.)

A member of the Verkhovna Rada, Yuri Kostenko, asked the Constitutional Court to explain whether or not it is legal to give the red flag the same treatment as the national flag. The Court ruled that according to the Ukrainian Constitution, the list of national symbols includes the national flag, the coat of arms, and the national anthem, and that list cannot be expanded. Also, the Court found procedural violations in adoption of the 2011 amendment by the Verkhovna Rada and invalidated the amendment. (Ukrainian Constitutional Court Did Not Allow the Display of the Victory Banner on May 9 [in Russian], NEWSRU.COM (June 17, 2011).)