KIEV, Ukraine (AP) _ The government should never elevate Russian to the status of an official language alongside Ukrainian, a top official said Wednesday.

Both are closely related Slavic languages and widely used in Ukraine. But the government has tried to boost the currency of Ukrainian by making it the official state language. The government is considering a draft law to further increase the use of Ukrainian in print and broadcast media, Deputy Premier Mykola Zhulinskiy told Interfax news agency.

Russia's government protested the proposal, saying it discriminated against the country's ethnic Russians _ about 20 percent of Ukraine's 50 million people.

But Zhulinskiy said Russian speakers already benefit from having more than 70 percent of Ukrainian print and broadcast media in Russian and didn't need special legal protection.

``I'm against even raising the issue of making Russian a state language,'' Zhulinskiy said.

Instead, he said, ``we should raise the issue of protecting our national information space and of giving priority to Ukrainian-language television and radio broadcasts, newspapers and books.''

In December, the Constitutional Court established Ukrainian as the language that state officials must use during work and in public appearances.

Many officials who once spoke only Russian, including President Leonid Kuchma, have taken pains to learn and speak Ukrainian.