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Holodomor 1932-33
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Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper Acknowledges Ukrainian Genocide

October 25, 2010

HarperAs reported from Kyiv, Ukraine, Prime Minister Stephen Harper tackled the sensitive subject of the Ukrainian genocide and the country’s faltering human-rights record during talks with his counterpart Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych October 25, 2010.

Harper was asked to comment on recent attempts by the government of Viktor Yanukovych to control the country’s media, and the intimidation of students, academics and historians by police.

“I raised those matters and raised them both generally and in some detail with President Yanukovych. I won’t get into that into any more detail, other than to say I appreciate the president’s firm commitments publicly in terms of respect of those critical freedoms,” Harper stated at a joint news conference.

He began his day at a monument marking the starvation deaths of up to 10 million Ukrainians at the hands of Josef Stalin in the 1930s, a genocide that Yanukovych has been reluctant to recognize. The Holodomor has been recognized as a genocide in the Canadian Parliament and by several other countries.

Recognition has been an important point of principle among Ukrainian Canadians, many of whom had relatives who fled the country during that period. Harper placed a jar of grain before the haunted statue of an emaciated young girl, grimacing as he stood for a moment of silence.

As Harper sat beside Yanukovych at the news conference, Harper chose words that matched its definition. “It’s a striking monument that reminds us all of the really terrible events in history, one of the great crimes of history, the Holodomor,” Harper stated. “Up to 10 million people, we’ll never know the numbers for sure, killed through the deliberate plans of their own government. I hope always that it will remind the Ukrainian people of the importance of their freedom, their democracy and their independence and the necessity of always defending those things.”

Yanukovych went as far as to concede the event was a “Stalinist” crime, but referred to other countries which had also been affected by the famine. Those who balk at the use of the word genocide often use the argument that the famine was not necessarily aimed directly at the Ukrainian people.

Harper also visited the site of one the worst massacres of the Holocaust. He laid a wreath at a monument at Babyn Yar, overlooking a ravine where Nazis gunned down more than 30,000 Jews in a matter of days. Over time, an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 other people, including tens of thousands of Roma, were also killed and dumped in a mass grave.


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