Russia on Tuesday denied a report saying Moscow attempted to prevent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from attending a wreath-laying ceremony in Ukraine for victims of the Holodomor.
Millions of Ukrainians died in man-made famine brought about by the Soviet Union in 1932-1933. Ukraine considers the Holodomor a genocide, saying it was a deliberate policy by dictator Joseph Stalin to crush independence hopes.
Russia has rejected designating the disaster a genocide, arguing there is no proof the famine was directed at Ukrainians.
The Maariv daily on Tuesday quoted an unnamed source in the Russian Embassy in Tel Aviv as saying Moscow, which rejects blame for the famine, tried to convince Netanyahu not to attend the ceremony during his state visit. The source claimed that while Netanyahu did not accede to that request, he did agree not to speak at the ceremony.
The Russian Embassy in Tel Aviv later denied the report.
“Russia does not interfere in the bilateral ties between Israel and Ukraine,” the Russian Embassy in Tel Aviv told The Times of Israel.
Netanyahu placed a small wheat basket at a monument in Kyiv for the victims of the Holodomor on Monday in a short ceremony that all foreign dignitaries visiting Ukraine are asked to partake in.
In a press appearance with Netanyahu, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asked Israel to formally recognize the Holodomor as a genocide, a request ignored by the prime minister.
“Honoring the memory of the victims of the Holocaust, in which more than two million Ukrainian Jews died, Ukraine calls on Israel to also recognize the Holodomor as an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people,” Zelensky said.
Over a dozen countries, though not Israel, have officially recognized the Holodomor as a genocide. Whether that label is historically accurate is the subject of scholarly debate; opponents argue that the man-made famine’s goal was not to annihilate the Ukrainian people per se.