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#18 - JRL 7038
Russia need not apologise for 1933 Ukraine famine: minister
January 28, 2003

Russia is under no obligation to apologise to Kiev for the 1930s famine caused by Stalin's forced collectivisation of agriculture that caused the death of millions of Ukrainians, Russian Culture Minister Mikhail Schvydkoi said Tuesday.

Questioned as to a possible apology as he accompanied President Vladimir Putin on a visit to Kiev, Schvydkoi noted that Russia "remembers the repression imposed on the Ukrainian people as it remembers that imposed on the Russian people," the Ukrainsky Novyny news agency reported. "In the labour camps, Ukrainians, Russians, Armenians and Georgians perished," he said, referring to the network of forced labour camps to which the victims of Soviet repression were sent from the early 1920s onwards.

An estimated eight million people died in the disastrous famine caused in Ukraine in 1933 by Stalin's decision to collectivise Soviet agriculture, applying the doctrine with extreme harshness, in what had long been considered the region's bread-basket.

Few details filtered through to the West at the time, and the famine was later assimilated with the wave of large-scale political repression that Stalin -- a Georgian -- launched throughout the Soviet Union in the years following 1937.

Several hundred people demonstrated in central Kiev Monday ahead of Putin's arrival, demanding an official Russian apology.

Several human rights organisations and opposition figures also protested at the decision to organise a programme of exchanges in an official "Russia in Ukraine Year" exactly 70 years after the famine.

Putin met Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma Monday to launch the programme, and was due Wednesday to open an informal summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States, a loose grouping of 12 former Soviet republics.

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