On Nov. 7, 2003, Valeriy Kuchinsky, permanent representative of Ukraine to the United Nations (UN), sent a cover letter to the UN Secretary General. Attached to it was a request to include in the documents of the 58th session of the UN General Assembly (GA) a statement by the delegations of almost 40 countries on the occasion of 70th anniversary of the Great Famine of 1932-33.

Among the delegations, to the surprise of most, were the Russian Federation, along with Belarus and Syria. Interestingly in retrospect, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN at the time was Sergey Lavrov.

In the text, the number of victims was stated to have been between seven and ten million. The word “Holodomor” was used, along with the description “national tragedy of the Ukrainian people.” The statement also referred to the memory of millions of Russians, Kazakhs and other nationalities.


The UN Secretary General honored the request.

Ukraine’s support for commemorating the famine

Three days later, the Ukrainian World Congress (UWC), together with the World Federation of Ukrainian Women’s Organization – the only two Ukrainian non-governmental organizations that were, and are, members of the UN with consultative status – issued a “Statement of Support for Commemorating the Victims of the Great Famine of 1932-33 in Ukraine.”

In May 2007, in accordance with regulations, the UWC submitted a report of its activities during 2003-6 to the Committee of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) at the UN for consideration and approval. In January 2008, the committee reviewed the report and adjourned.

It posed two questions in the interim: i) what is the position of the UWC regarding the joint Statement on the Holodomor made during the 58th session of the UN GA; and ii) what are the sources of the number of victims of the Great Famine in the UWC Statement.

The UWC replied that its position coincided with the assertions of almost 40 states that signed the Statement, and the estimate of seven to ten million was made on the basis of the following sources:

  • Robert Conquest’s book “Harvest of Sorrow”;
  • the final report of the US Congressional Commission on the Ukraine famine;
  • the findings by the International Tribunal of eminent jurists, which the UWC had convened;
  • that the number of seven to ten million was composed of seven million on the territory of the former Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) and three million on other territories of the USSR, in particular, the Kuban, the North Caucasus, and Kazakhstan;

Outside the Ukrainian SSR, the worst famine was on territories densely populated by Ukrainians. The report of the International Tribunal includes statistics from two censuses of the USSR from 1926 and 1939.

Russia’s objection

At the session of the same NGO committee in May 2008, the Russian Federation was the only one of 20 states to object to the submission and ratification of the UWC report. Yet because of Russia’s position, the UWC report remained unaccepted.

On Oct. 28, 2008, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation Vitaliy Churkin convened a press conference at the UN. The purpose of this conference was to boast to the UN press that the Russian Federation had managed to controvert Ukraine’s efforts to include the commemoration of the Holodomor victims in the program of the 63rd session of the UN GA.

A representative of the UWC present at the conference managed to ask Churkin a question, namely, whether the famine by forced collectivization and deprivation was not an attempt at the genocide of the Ukrainian people. Immediately, the UWC representative was surrounded by Churkin’s security service, which caused the UN security to act as well. The UWC representative was accosted, threatened and asked to leave the press briefing room as other press representatives approached him for further comment.


Despite this, the commemoration of “Holodomor” victims continued in November to December each year at the UN through the efforts of the then Permanent Representation of Ukraine to the UN Yuriy Sergeyev.

All that changed when Viktor Yanukovych was elected (or rather, falsified) as the President of Ukraine, and a like-minded Kostantyn Hryshchenko became minister of foreign affairs.

Sergeyev tried to do what he could. In 2014, under President Petro Poroshenko, Volodymyr Yelchenko took his place. The annual commemoration of the ”Holodomor” within the confines of the UN did not resume, nor has it resumed under the current Permanent Representative of Ukraine Serhiy Kyslytsya.

The aggression of the Russian Federation at the UN intensified not only in relation to the observance of the “Holodomor”, but in a more serious direction since its invasion of Crimea in Feb. 2014. The Kremlin began to flex its muscle brazenly at the forum of the UN Security Council, seizing and illegitimately exploiting the seat of the USSR.


Clearly the Russian aggressors are guilty of serious crimes, but those who acquiesce to Russian usurpation and aggression at the UN are not entirely blameless either.  After all, the Russian Federation is not in fact a member of the UN.

The views expressed are the author’s and not necessarily of Kyiv Post.


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