It is "unjust" to call the Stalin-era famine that killed millions across the Soviet Union a genocide of the Ukrainian people, President Viktor Yanukovych said on Tuesday.
Yanukovych's statement to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) marks a complete reversal of the policy of his predecessor, Viktor Yushchenko, who sought international recognition of the 1932-1933 Great Famine, known to Ukrainians as the Holodomor, as genocide.
PACE will discuss on Wednesday a report commemorating the victims of the Soviet famine that includes an amendment recognizing the Holodomor as a genocide of the Ukrainian people.
"We consider it incorrect and unjust to consider the Holodomor a fact of genocide of a certain people," Yanukovych said, calling it "a common tragedy" of the Soviet people.
The Ukrainian president said not only Ukrainian, but also Russian, Belarusian and Kazakh people starved during the famine.
"Those were consequences of Stalin's totalitarian regime, his attitude to people," he said.
More than 3 million people perished in Ukraine due to the famine, and Ukrainian nationalists say Russia, as the legal successor of the Soviet Union, should bear responsibility. Yushchenko, who was known for his anti-Russian policies as president, led Ukraine's efforts to secure international recognition of the famine as an act of genocide.
Yanukovych was elected in February to succeed Yushchenko and swiftly aligned Kiev closer to Moscow, including by agreeing to extend Russia's lease on a naval base in Crimea.
Russia says the famine cannot be considered an act that targeted Ukrainians, as millions of people from different ethnic groups also lost their lives in vast territories across the Soviet Union.
A draft PACE resolution on the famine says it was caused by "cruel and deliberate actions and policies of the Soviet regime" responsible for the deaths of "millions of innocent people," not only in Ukraine, but also in Belarus, Kazakhstan, Moldova and Russia. Relative to its population, Kazakhstan is believed to be the worst affected Soviet republic, the document says.
STRASBOURG, April 27 (RIA Novosti)