Deputy Foreign Minister of Ukraine Vasyl Bodnar has urged government agencies to refrain from using the term ‘genocide’ when referring to the slaughter of Armenians a century ago, as it would go against Kiev’s political interests.
An estimated 1.5 million Armenians were killed by the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1922. Bodnar outlined reasons for refusing to recognize the events as genocide in a letter to government officials, which was subsequently leaked on Facebook by a member of the Verkovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament.
According to Bodnar, these events do not fit the UN definition of genocide, which constitutes “actions committed with the intention to destroy, in whole or in part, any national, ethnic, racial or religious group as such.”
His letter, however, confirmed that the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry made that determination mainly for strategic reasons. It argued that modern Armenia is a close ally of Russia, and may vote for resolutions in international bodies hostile to the interests of Ukraine. Kiev has been at odds with Moscow ever since 2014, when an elected government was overthrown in a US-backed coup, prompting three regions of Ukraine to declare independence and one of them, Crimea, to rejoin Russia.
Another thing pointed out in Bodnar’s letter is that the Armenian issue is an “extremely sensitive topic” for Ukraine’s key strategic partner in the region, Turkey. Although the Turkish republic began in 1923 by disavowing its Ottoman past, it has maintained ever since that what happened to the Armenian, Greek and other Christian populations during WWI and its aftermath was not genocide.
Bodnar’s position was blasted on social media as outright genocide denial, with some Twitter users pointing out the irony and hypocrisy of Kiev insisting that the 1932 famine amounted to a Soviet genocide of Ukrainians.
The ‘Holodomor’ has been a similarly controversial topic in the world, with Ukrainian nationalists claiming that the famine was a direct and deliberate attack on them, even though the famine affected other parts of the Soviet Union as well, due to a combination of bad weather and strict agricultural collectivization policies.
Russia is among the 29 countries that have officially recognized the Armenian genocide as of 2020. While both chambers of the US Congress have adopted resolutions recognizing the genocide, during the 2019 crisis over Turkey’s invasion of Syrian territories held by US-backed Kurdish militias, the White House has not signed off on them, so they do not have the force of law.