MPs have voted to recognise the 1930s Holodomor famine as genocide against Ukrainians

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his wife Olena visit a monument for Holodomor victims in Kyiv. Credit: AP

MPs have voted in favour of recognising a famine that engulfed Ukraine in the 1930s as a genocide against the country’s people.

The House of Commons unanimously supported a motion to recognise the Holodomor as a genocide.

The famine is widely agreed to be man-made, and occurred between 1932 and 1933, killing millions of Ukrainians.

A growing number of countries have recognised the Holodomor as a genocide, as they consider it a purposeful attempt by the Soviet government to kill Ukrainians.

The backbench motion, tabled by Conservative MP Pauline Latham (Mid Derbyshire), is non-binding.

Ukrainians visit a memorial for the Holodomor famine in Kyiv. Credit: AP

But Ms Latham urged MPs to support it as a means of sending a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin about his invasion of Ukraine.

She told the Commons: “The USSR murdered millions of Ukrainians using policies of forced starvation and forced migration, which are reminiscent of what is going on today in Ukraine.

"Stalin in the 1930s, like Putin today, was aiming to destroy the nation of Ukraine and the concept of Ukrainian identity.

“I hope that today, that we will vote to recognise the Holodomor as a genocide, then we can send a clear message to Putin and to the world that the UK Parliament stands with Ukraine, and that war crimes, either historic or current, will not be tolerated.”

She had earlier said: “His Majesty’s government’s longstanding policy is not to recognise a genocide unless a competent court has declared it as such, which is very unlikely in relation to a series of events taking place 90 years ago.

“This means today is likely to be the only chance for the UK to be added to the ever-growing list of countries who recognise the atrocities committed by Stalin’s USSR in Ukraine in 1932-33 for what they were: a genocide.”

Ms Latham said that countries including Australia, Canada, Ireland and Brazil had all officially recognised the Holodomor as a genocide, while politicians in Germany and the USA had passed resolutions to recognise the genocide in the Bundestag and Congress.

SNP spokesman Drew Hendry gave his backing to the motion, telling MPs that “recognising the Holodomor as a genocide holds implications for the present illegal war”.

Shadow Foreign Office minister Stephen Doughty paid tribute to Welsh journalist Gareth Jones, who was considered instrumental with reporting the story of the Holodomor to the western world.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock visits an exhibition at the Holodomor famine museum in Ukraine. Credit: AP

The Cardiff South and Penarth MP praised the work of journalists covering the current war in Ukraine, telling MPs: “The parallels of course with today are striking. Journalists, correspondents and reporters from many countries, not least from Ukraine itself, are putting themselves in danger to expose the true extent of Russia’s barbarous war crimes.

“They are integral to thwarting Putin’s concerted information war and to bringing justice for those who have been subjected to war crimes and atrocities.”

Foreign Office minister Leo Docherty said: “There is universal agreement, of course, that the Holodomor was one of the darkest chapters in Ukrainian and European history, it was a vast and horrific man-made disaster that killed millions of innocent people.”

He said calls from MPs to designate it as genocide were “wholly understandable”, adding: “Nevertheless I do believe there are sound and logical reasons for this government to maintain the long-held position of UK governments and refrain from making determinations about whether a genocide has or has not been committed.

“It is a longstanding policy of the government that any judgment on whether genocide has occurred is a matter for a competent court after considerations of all the evidence available rather than governments or non-judicial bodies.”

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