Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky compared Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to the man-made famine that caused millions of deaths in the 1930s under Soviet rule in an address remembering the historic event Saturday.
Zelensky said at the country’s International Summit on Food Security that in both conflicts Russian forces created a “food crisis.”
Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February hampered Ukraine’s ability to supply wheat, barley and other cereals to countries in Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia. The difficulties sent prices soaring and pushed millions more people around the world toward starvation.
In the summer, Russia and Ukraine came to an agreement to open a grain corridor out of the Ukrainian sea ports. The deal was reached with the help of the United Nations and Turkey in order to deliver tens of thousands of tons of grain to lower-income countries.
However, Russia reneged on the agreement in October, resuming the blockade of Ukrainian ports, alleging at the time that Ukraine had staged a drone attack against Russia’s Black Sea fleet. In November, Russia resumed the accord.
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Zelensky said Saturday is the 90th anniversary of the “genocide” that the “totalitarian Stalinist regime” committed against Ukrainians.
Zelensky referenced the Holodomor, a famine that took place from 1932 to 1933 in Ukraine while the country was part of the Soviet Union.
“They want to destroy us again with bombs, bullets, cold and again with hunger,” he said.
Soviet leader Joseph Stalin created the famine to tighten his hold on Ukraine amid fears that the country would try to secede from the Soviet Union. The Soviet government required strict rationing that killed as many as 28,000 people per day and about 4 million people overall, based on historians’ estimates.
Zelensky noted in his address that 17 countries, including the United States, Canada and Australia, have declared the Holodomor as a genocide against the Ukrainian people. More countries have recently recognized the famine as genocide, including Romania, Ireland and Moldova.
Pope Francis drew a comparison between Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine and the Holodomor during his general audience earlier this week.
German lawmakers are set to vote on a resolution to recognize the famine as genocide.
Zelensky praised the recognition from Romania, Ireland and Moldova in a tweet, saying that acknowledging it as a genocide and crime against humanity is more important than ever.
Zelensky’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, said in a tweet that Russia wants to organize “Holodomor 2.0” 90 years after the original famine.
“But this time not in Ukraine alone, but also in the world. The crime must be punished. The world must hold the aggressor accountable,” he said.