Ex-Soviet Republics Decline To Put Ukraine's Call To Consider 1930s Famine A Genocide

MOSCOW, Russia -- Foreign ministers from former Soviet republics rejected a bid Friday to recognize the 1930s famine in Ukraine as genocide.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov

They voted against putting the issue on their agenda, in a dispute that underlined sharp differences in the increasingly divided Commonwealth of Independent States.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasiuk urged colleagues from the 12-member organization to put the question on the agenda for their Moscow meeting, saying that the issue "does not receive the appropriate assessment from the countries of the CIS."

Following the meeting, however, he said the request was rejected by Russia and four other nations in a "deeply disappointing" vote that he said displayed the CIS' ineffectiveness and showed that Russia is seeking to assume the mantle of the Soviet Union while avoiding any responsibility for the crimes of the Soviet era.

Soviet dictator Josef Stalin provoked what the Ukrainians called the Great Famine in 1932-1933, which killed up to 10 million, as part of his campaign to force peasants in the fertile republic to give up their land and join collective farms. Nations including the United States, Canada, Austria, Hungary and Lithuania have recognized the famine as genocide.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov suggested the Ukrainian initiative was a bid to score political points, saying the famine was a matter for historians and not politicians. He emphasized that other Soviet citizens also suffered and died as result of collectivization, calling their suffering a "common tragedy" for the former Soviet Union.

"We do not see the purpose of the false politicization" of the issue, Lavrov told reporters after the meeting.

The vote reflected growing enmity in the CIS between those closely allied with Moscow - and increasingly wary of the West - and those that are seeking to shed Russian influence and turn toward Europe and the United States.

Joining Russia were Belarus, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, while Georgia, Moldova and Azerbaijan favored putting the issue on the agenda and Armenia, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan abstained, Tarasiuk said.

The CIS, whose creation by charter members Russia, Ukraine and Belarus cemented the Soviet breakup in 1991, has faced increasing criticism from its own members, whose leaders emerge from an annual summit last summer with fresh pledges to strengthen and reform the organization.

Speaking to reporters separately following the meeting, Lavrov and Tarasiuk offered widely varying assessments of the group's progress, with the Russian minister saying the organization has been "quite effective" in dealing with challenges, while the Ukrainian said that "dozens, hundreds of its decision are not being carried out and do not work."

Tarasiuk, however, stopped short of threatening Ukraine's withdrawal from the CIS.

He said Ukraine would continue to raise the famine issue at future meetings of the organization.

Source: AP