ROAR: PACE resolution on famine seen as success for Russian delegation

Politicians and analysts in Russia welcome the decision of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe not to recognize Holodomor as an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people.

PACE adopted a resolution on April 28 saying the Josef Stalin regime was responsible for the Great Famine in the 1930s that that took millions of lives in the former Soviet Republics of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine.

“The results were the same everywhere: millions of human lives were sacrificed to the fulfillment of the policies of the Stalinist regime,” the statement said.

PACE has not heeded proposals to recognize the Holodomor (the Ukrainian term for the famine in the 1930s) an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people. The previous Ukrainian leadership considered it genocide, but President Viktor Yanukovich has stressed that the mass famine was a tragedy for all peoples of the Soviet Union, marking a U-turn in Kiev’s attitude to the issue.

The Russian delegation at the assembly welcomed the resolution. Amending the report that PACE had prepared prior to the session “would have completely changed its conception,” said Leonid Slutsky, first deputy chairman of the State Duma’s Committee on Foreign Affairs.

The famine was the greatest tragedy of all peoples of the USSR, but “the word ‘genocide’ cannot be used everywhere,” Slutsky noted.

“Russia has achieved the exclusion of the accusations of genocide from the draft PACE resolution on the famine in the USSR,” Vedomosti daily wrote. “The new Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich has been helpful in this,” the paper expressed, sharing the view by many analysts and newspapers.

“The [alleged] accusations against Russia were swept aside,” Vladimir Zhidkikh, a member of the Russian delegation, was quoted by the paper as saying.

“The current Ukrainian leadership has given the upper hand in assessing those events to historians and does not share with the previous Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko his approach to the problem,” Aleksandr Podlesov, a member of the Federation Council, told the paper.

However, it was Ukrainian historians who supported a law adopted by the country’s parliament in 2006, which labeled the famine an act of genocide. “Historians should establish facts rather than stick political labels,” said Vladimir Kornilov of the Institute of the CIS countries.

It was not the first time that PACE has considered this issue, Kornilov told the daily. The Yushchenko administration also asked the UN, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and UNESCO to recognize Holodomor as an act of genocide, but without success, the analyst noted.

However, some countries supported Yushchenko, among them the US, Canada, Spain, Poland, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Georgia, Ecuador and Paraguay. According to Kornilov, the parliaments of these countries had been provided with “incorrect facts.”“Russia’s struggle against such resolutions is purely an issue of the country’s image,” Sergey Mikheev of the Center for Political Technologies told Vedomosti. “The wording that makes the Russians responsible for genocide of the Ukrainians would certainly hurt the country’s reputation.”

At the same time, even if the resolution had been adopted, it would have not become a reason for filing suits against Russia for compensation, because PACE is a consultative body, the analyst stressed.

Another daily newspaper, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, said the suits might have been filed if all the amendments for the PACE resolution had been approved. They were based on the decision of a court in Kiev that had called Stalin and the then-leadership of Ukraine responsible for genocide.

On the other hand, the European Court of Human Rights usually does not support the political resolutions of PACE, the paper’s sources in the court said. In any case, its decisions are certainly not based on such resolutions, the daily added.

The amendments to PACE’s resolution on the famine were rejected despite the fact that the Russian delegation had to discuss the issue in the absence of its “allies” at the session, Rossiyskaya Gazeta daily said.

Ukrainian deputies from Yanukovich’s Party of Regions went to Kiev to ratify the agreements with Russia on the Black Sea Fleet and gas, and delegates from Turkey left for national holiday celebrations, the daily said.

However, inner disagreements that exist in PACE helped Russia, the daily noted. The majority of “anti-Russian” amendments to the resolution have been submitted by the assembly’s judicial commission. The leadership of the political commission, which finally considered the resolution found these activities of other parliamentarians as “undermining their authority,” the daily said, citing its sources.

“Since Turkish parliamentarian Mevlut Cavusoglu became PACE chairman in January, the Russian delegation’s luck has improved,” Kommersant daily agreed. As for the latest resolution, supporters of the genocide version “had been neutralized even before the discussion on the report started,” the paper said.

“Russian parliamentarians were leaving the meeting of the political commission with smiles on their faces,” the paper noted, adding that the Yanukovich speech at PACE helped much to achieve a positive result.

Even milder amendments were rejected, the paper said, including one describing the famine as a result of “forced collectivization” of the first years of Soviet power.

Moreover, the Russian delegation “overplayed” their colleagues from Georgia in another issue discussed at the assembly. The adoption of a new resolution concerning the August 2008 events in North Ossetia “was replaced by debates,” Kommersant said.

Despite clear successes at the current session for Moscow, State Duma speaker Boris Gryzlov stressed on April 28 that PACE’s possibilities are still being used “for conducting anti-Russian policies.”

Such a stance has become “an end in itself” for some delegations at PACE, although the organization’s format otherwise allows parliamentarians to discuss European issues, Gryzlov noted. The path to cooperation is paved by “impartiality and ability to heed to each other,” he added.

The speaker welcomed “a constructive approach” demonstrated by the Ukrainian president. “Russian parliamentarians are always open for substantial dialogue based on facts and historical truth rather than emotions,” he stressed.

Sergey Borisov,
Russian Opinion and Analysis Review