Russia's president has accused Kiev of using the Stalin-era famine to drive a wedge between Ukraine and Russia and urged efforts to forge a common position on the tragedy.

In a letter to Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko released by the Kremlin on Friday, Dmitry Medvedev said Kiev's position meant he could not attend events to commemorate the famine, known as the Holodomor, in Ukraine due later this month.

"Ukraine has been using the tragic events of the early 1930s to achieve its political ends," Medvedev said, adding these efforts are "aimed at disuniting our nations which have for centuries been linked by historical, cultural and spiritual bonds, special friendship and mutual trust."

Medvedev suggested the two countries start seeking common approaches to the events, and invite experts from Kazakhstan, Belarus and other ex-Soviet states affected by the famine to join the effort.

"At the moment, however, I do not believe my participation in Holodomor commemoration events is possible," Medvedev said.

Yushchenko has declared 2008 the year to commemorate the Holodomor, which the country's leadership insist was an act of genocide against Ukraine by the Soviet authorities.

Estimates vary widely as to the number of deaths in Ukraine caused by the forced collectivization of the early 1930s, along with the devastating purges of Ukrainian intelligentsia, religious leaders and politicians under Stalin. Some sources cite figures of over 7 million.

Moscow has rejected Kiev's interpretation of the tragedy saying that besides Ukraine the famine also affected different ethnic groups in vast territories in the North Caucasus, the Volga region, central Russia, Kazakhstan, west Siberia and the south Urals.

The United Nations General Committee refused last month to include the Holodomor on its agenda, supporting Russia's recommendation to exclude the famine from the UN session

The European Parliament adopted a resolution in October declaring the famine of 1932-1933 a crime "against humanity" but stopping short of using the word "genocide." In July 2008, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe also condemned the famine without recognizing it as an act of genocide.

The leaders of Poland, Georgia and the Baltic States have officially announced they will attend a forum on the famine in Kiev on November 22, Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said last week.

Other Holodomor commemoration events are scheduled for November 17 through 22.


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