Ukraine's parliament has voted to recognize the 1932/1933 forced famine as genocide, in a move that could pave the way for compensation claims by the familes of victims of the man-made disaster that claimed up to 10 million lives.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and his wife Kateryna attended a ceremony in Kiev last Saturday to commemorate the victims of the Great Famine.
A total of 233 members in the 450-seat assembly approved a bill sought by President Viktor Yushchenko to press for world recognition of the famine, caused by Stalin's drive to collectivize farming and seen as a deliberate policy to crush the Ukrainian nation and smash resistance to Soviet policy by Ukraine's farmers or 'kulaks'.
Some estimates put the death toll as high as 10 million, or almost one-third of the population at the time. The famine is known in Ukraine as "Holodomor" or "Death by Hunger."
The vote opens the door to potential recognition of the famine by the United Nations as genocide against Ukrainian people. Ten countries, including the United States, have already recognized the famine as genocide.
Moscow opposes calling the famine genocide, saying that it did not specifically target Ukrainians. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin on Tuesday said Ukraine was "politicizing" the issue, the Interfax new agency reported.
The party of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, a Kremlin ally, had proposed using the word "tragedy" instead of genocide, in what was seen as an effort to avoid hurting ties with Russia. Only two of the 186 members of Yanukovych's faction supported the bill.
A total of 200 lawmakers did not cast a ballot. An independent poll released last week showed that around 70 percent of Ukrainians support recognizing the famine as genocide.
Yanukovych said Ukrainians were not alone in their suffering. "It happened on the territory of many countries (former Soviet republics), maybe in Ukraine it had a greater effect as Ukraine is a more agricultural country," Yanukovych said, according to the Associated Press.
During the height of the famine, thousands of people died each day and entire villages were devastated. Cannibalism became widespread. Those who resisted were shot or shipped off to Siberia.
The famine, never recognised by the Soviet Union, was only commemorated after the end of communism. Yushchenko, elected after mass " Orange Revolution" protests in 2004, last week presided over the second annual official ceremony.
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