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    Ukraine president says Russia not to blame for Stalin-era famine

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    Ukraine insists the Stalin-era famine known as the Holodomor was an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people, but does not blame any individual state for it, the country's president said on Wednesday.

    KIEV, November 19 (RIA Novosti) - Ukraine insists the Stalin-era famine known as the Holodomor was an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people, but does not blame any individual state for it, the country's president said on Wednesday.

    Speaking at a ceremony to unveil a memorial in a village in western Ukraine, one of the areas hardest hit by the early 1930s famine, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said, as quoted by his press service: "Ukraine does not blame any nation or state for the great famine."

    Yushchenko said "the totalitarian Communist regime" was to blame for the Holodomor.

    Nationalist groups in ex-Soviet Ukraine have insisted Russia, as legal successor to the former Soviet Union, must be responsible for the tragedy and have demanded compensation.

    The famine was caused by forced collectivization. Estimates as to the amount of victims in Ukraine vary greatly, with some 2 million being the lower end of the scale.

    The famine also took the lives of millions of people from different ethnic groups in vast territories in the North Caucasus, the Volga region, central Russia, Kazakhstan, west Siberia, and the south Urals.

    Ukraine is holding Holodomor commemoration events on November 17 through 22.

    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has declined to attend the events, saying in a letter to Yushchenko last week that Kiev has used the famine to drive a wedge between Ukraine and Russia. He also urged efforts to forge a common position on the tragedy.

    "Ukraine has been using the tragic events of the early 1930s to achieve its political ends," Medvedev said.

    Kiev's attempts to declare the Holodomor an act of genocide by the Soviet authorities are "aimed at disuniting our nations, which have for centuries been linked by historical, cultural and spiritual bonds, special friendship and mutual trust," Medvedev said.

    "At the moment, I do not believe my participation in Holodomor commemoration events is possible," Medvedev said.

    Kiev said it was disappointed by the statement.

    Ukraine has been seeking international recognition for the Stalin-era famine as an act of genocide. The United Nations refused last month to include the famine on its agenda, supporting Russia's recommendation.

    Eight heads of state, including the presidents of the three ex-Soviet Baltic states, Poland and Georgia, were reported to be due to attend a forum and commemoration events on this week's 75th anniversary of the Holodomor. Some 40 foreign delegations are also expected to attend.

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