Minister Sajjan compares Russian missile strikes to Holodomor famine

Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan said Russia’s strikes on Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure reminded him of a historic famine, but it was too early to tell if Russia was committing genocide.

« When you look at the number of missiles that targeted civilians, it’s hard not to make the connection with the genocide that took place during the Holodomor, » Sajjan said Thursday.

The Holodomor was a man-made famine in Soviet Ukraine that killed millions of people between 1932 and 1933. Canada recognizes this episode as genocide.

“They’ve seen atrocities in the past where (Russia) tried to facilitate — to try to starve the Ukrainians. It’s something they knew very well through the Holodomor. And this is something that is not new to them,” he said.

This week, Russian missiles killed civilians and damaged some electrical infrastructure across Ukraine, in the most bombardment in months across large swathes of the country.

According to Minister Sajjan, these airstrikes, tortures and massacres documented this year constitute war crimes. He said it’s hard not to compare these airstrikes to the Holodomor.

« The type of war crime they’re talking about, the torture that was done, some of those stories will come out later – so I will say that will determine what the actual terminology will be. »

The elected Liberal spoke to reporters by telephone from the Canadian embassy in Warsaw, Poland, after a visit to Lviv, a large city located in one of the safest regions of Ukraine.

He was there to meet with displaced people from all over Ukraine, to assess the kinds of support the country might need this winter.

“We look at everything from the supply of generators (to) clothing; full range. »

« That’s why this needs assessment is very important, so that we have a good overview of the exact needs across the country, » he said, adding that recent airstrikes have contributed to this need.

“We thought the electrical infrastructure could be targeted. We just didn’t think Putin would be so deliberate in his method of doing it.”

The Minister also mentioned that it was absolutely necessary in Ukraine to strengthen support for women victims of violence.

Ukrainian groups have argued that Russia is intentionally perpetuating genocide, citing Moscow’s rhetoric that Ukraine has no distinct culture and does not belong to Russia.

In April, MPs unanimously backed a New Democratic Party (NDP) motion to « recognize that the Russian Federation is committing acts of genocide against the Ukrainian people. » The House of Commons passed this motion with unanimous consent, but did not hold a formal parliamentary vote.

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