28 October 2008
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York





During a Headquarters press conference today, the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation criticized what he called the Ukrainian Government’s repeated attempts to recognize the Ukrainian victims of the severe famine that had swept through the former Soviet Union in the early 1930s by placing it on the agenda of the United Nations General Assembly.

While acknowledging the deaths that occurred as a tragedy, Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said that was a tragedy also shared by people in what was now the Russian Federation, as well as other parts of the former Soviet Union.  The present Ukrainian leadership was using the 75-year-old tragedy that killed millions of people to detract attention from the country’s current political and economic crisis, he said.

“I hope the matter can be settled in a way to let the historians deal with it.  Let us commemorate the victims of the famine of 1932 and 1933 without turning it into a political exercise,” Mr. Churkin said in response to a reporter’s question about the impact on Russian and United States relations.  Mr. Churkin added that he did not see the dispute as having any international ramifications.

At a 17 September closed meeting of the General Committee, the body that sets out the work programme for the United Nations 192-member General Assembly, an item on “commemoration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Great Famine of 1932-1933 in the Ukraine (Holodomor)” was dropped from the agenda.  Mr. Churkin said that Ukraine had raised the issue at previous sessions and it had been agreed that it would be deferred to the sixty-third Assembly session.

The General Committee had again discussed the issue at a 23 October closed-door meeting.  Mr. Churkin criticized the way in which that meeting had been organized and conducted by the President of the General Assembly, certain Member States and Secretariat officials.  He also criticized the conduct of the representative of the United States.  While understanding the need for closed meetings, he said he would “not have minded” if that meeting had been open.

The Russian Federation viewed the Ukrainian Government’s repeated attempts to place the item on the United Nations agenda as “an acute confrontation”.  The Ukrainian Government was trying to turn the humanitarian tragedy into “a genocide” against the Ukrainian people.  “This same tragedy occurred in many regions of the former Soviet Union,” he said.

In response to a question concerning the conflicting statistics on the deaths of the famine victims, Mr. Churkin acknowledged that there were many different statistics.  But the numbers were not important, he added.  Many people from many different regions had died during the 1933-1932 famine.

The Ukrainian Government should not claim that the tragedy had started in the Ukraine and that the famine had been directed at the Ukrainian people, he said, calling such a stance a “political offensive” aimed at igniting animosity between the Ukrainian and Russian people.  “Let’s not politicize it.  Let’s deal with it on a basis that shows respect to the others in Russia that died,” he said.

In response to another question, Mr. Churkin said he did not view disagreement on the issue as a “low point” in United States-Russian relations, and the relationship between the two countries was not at a “new low”.  He said the incoming Administration in Washington would provide a new opportunity for relations between the two countries.  He declined to comment on whether the Republican or Democratic presidential candidate would govern better.

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For information media • not an official record