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Country Report: Ukraine

Russian Aggression and Denial of Genocide(s)

in Ukraine

September 2021

People gather in Kiev’s Independence Square to protest Russia’s involvement in Ukraine. Protests started in Kiev last November and haven’t subsided since. (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov)

Ukraine holds significant geostrategic and agricultural importance for its neighbor, Russia. It became part of the Russian Empire around 1775. It declared an independent Ukrainian National Republic in 1918. But it lost its war of independence (1918-1921) to the Red Army and became part of the Soviet Union. Stalin prioritized the destruction of Ukrainian culture to prevent a second uprising. The Soviet Union inflicted the Holodomor (“death by starvation”), a genocidal famine, on Ukraine from 1932-1933. It intentionally created conditions of life that starved 3.5 to 4 million Ukrainians. Stalin collectivized all farmland in Ukraine.

The Soviet NKVD purged Ukraine of its intelligentsia and clergy, the foundations of culture. The Soviet Union imposed quotas for grain production that were impossible to meet and then confiscated all grain that was produced, leaving the farmers to starve. It imposed the “Law of Spikelets” which made the theft of just five stalks of grain punishable by death. The Young Communist League and police confiscated cooking utensils and farming tools. The military blockaded villages so they could not seek food in cities. Stalin expanded these policies to Ukrainian enclaves in Russia, proving his intent to destroy the Ukrainian nation.

Stalin launched a large-scale propaganda campaign to cover up the genocide. Walter Duranty of the New York Times wrote articles denying any mass starvation. Many Russians still revere Stalin and dispute claims of genocide. Deniers contend that the famine was only an unfortunate side-effect of collectivization. 16 countries, including the United States, have recognized the Holodomor famine as genocide.

During the Holocaust, German Einsatzgruppen and local collaborators murdered 1.5 million Jews in Ukraine. The most famous massacre was at the Babi Yar ravine outside Kiev, where 33,771 Jews were killed in a single operation on 29–30 September 1941. Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism are still prevalent in Ukrainian politics and society.

In 1944, Stalin’s secret police, the NKVD, forcibly deported over 180,000 Crimean Tatars to Uzbekistan in just three days. 20-40% of Tatars died in transit or in exile during the next five years.

Three Soviet leaders following Stalin (Nikita Khrushchev, Leonid Brezhnev, and Mikhail Gorbachev), ended the Russian genocide in Ukraine but they continued the “russification” of Ukraine. The Soviet KGB continued targeted disappearances and imprisonment of Ukrainian leaders.

In 1988, the Ukrainian independence movement, led by RUKH, began peaceful resistance to Soviet Russian domination. Under Gorbachev’s policies of Glasnost (“openness”), free newspapers and media grew, and independence leaders were even elected to parliament (Rada). When the KGB arrested Stepan Khmara on the floor of parliament, RUKH turned the repression into a mass movement for independence. [Dr. Gregory Stanton of Genocide Watch was legal advisor to RUKH.] On 24 August 1991, Ukraine became independent.

In 2014, President Putin sent Russian troops into Crimea to exploit division in Ukraine when the Ukrainian president was defeated for favoring closer ties with Russia. On 18 March 2014, Russia annexed Crimea after a rigged referendum. 140,000 Crimean Ukrainians and Tatars fled the occupied territory as 250,000 Russians took their place. Crimean Tatars who remain on the peninsula face arbitrary arrests and violence. With support from Russia, Russian-speaking militias took over Donetsk and Luhansk, resulting in civil war.

Ukraine is at Stage 6: Polarization, Stage 8: Persecution, and Stage 10: Denial.

Genocide Watch Recommends:

· Russia should officially recognize the Holodomor as genocide.

· Russia should remove its troops from the illegally occupied Crimean Peninsula.

· Russia should stop supplying weapons and personnel to Russian militias in eastern Ukraine.

· The U.S., Canada, and European nations should admit Ukraine to NATO.

· NATO should provide Ukraine with the support it needs to defend its independence.

Country Report - Ukraine - September 2021
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