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Russian Spy Agency Officer Denies Ukraine's Genocide Claim

A woman lights a candle at the monument to victims of the Holodomor in Kyiv.
MOSCOW (Reuters) -- A general in Russia's intelligence agency has dismissed as an "invention" Ukraine's call for recognition of a 1930s famine as genocide after Kyiv urged the Kremlin to join in commemorations for millions of dead.

The row over the "Holodomor", or famine of 1932-33, in which historians believe 7.5 million died, is one of many pitting the Kremlin against Kyiv's pro-Western leaders swept to power by mass Orange Revolution rallies in 2004.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev stayed away from ceremonies to mark the 75th anniversary of the calamity last month and accused Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko of distorting history for political gain.

The two ex-Soviet states are also at odds over payment for Russian gas supplies and Kyiv's drive to secure NATO membership.

"The Holodomor is a Ukrainian invention," General Vasily Khristoforov, head of registration and archives department at the Federal Security Service (FSB), told the Interfax news agency.

"Ukraine is trying to prove that the 1930s famine was an act of genocide the Stalinist leadership committed against Ukrainians.

"Archive documents show undeniably that there was no deliberate genocide against the Ukrainian people. We have not found a single directive that would have even hinted about deliberate genocide against the Ukrainian people."

Researchers, Khristoforov told the agency, had proven beyond all doubt that a famine in the late 1920s and 1930s did grip various southern Soviet regions.

"Yes, it did, but not only in Ukraine," he said.

Many of the darkest secrets from the Soviet era remain in the archives of the FSB, the main successor to the KGB intelligence service that played a central role in Moscow's efforts to enforce the communist system.

About a dozen countries have recognized the Holodomor, one of three famines to hit Ukraine last century, as genocide.

Addressing a gathering last month at the opening of a monument to the famine, Yushchenko denied any suggestion Russia was to blame for the famine. But he called on Moscow to denounce Stalinism and join in commemorations for the dead.

Millions were left to starve in their homes throughout Ukraine as Soviet authorities trying to bring independent farmers to their knees imposed impossible harvest quotas and requisitioned grain and livestock.

Soviet authorities denied for decades that the famine had even occurred.