A Russian diplomat cautioned Israel on Wednesday over a proposed law that would formally recognize the deaths of millions of Ukrainians under Soviet rule as a genocide.
“This is not a good time to discuss such a proposal,” Leonid Frolov, Russia’s deputy ambassador in Tel Aviv, told Israel’s Army Radio. “It will be bad. It will be (the) wrong step.”
He was referring to preliminary legislation, submitted by Druze MK Akram Hasson whose Kulanu party is a member of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s governing coalition, that would declare Dec. 6 as “Remembrance Day for the Ukrainian Genocide” in Israel.
Ukraine’s Holodomor, or death by starvation of as many as 10 million people in 1932-33, was denied by the Soviet Union for decades. Ukraine passed a resolution in 2016 appealing for world recognition of the Holodomor as genocide, angering Moscow.
Ukraine’s government says 17 countries – eight of them former Soviet republics or satellites – have recognized the Holodomor as a genocide.
The Israeli bill is still far from ratification, and faces opposition within the ruling coalition. While Netanyahu’s office did not immediately comment, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman called the bill’s author “delusional.”
Hasson told Reuters he proposed the law after making a three-month fact-finding trip to Ukraine to examine the issue.
“I don’t know how anyone can be angry about this, and I’m under no obligation to please anyone,” he said. “I work for the parliament of Israel – a democracy, with human values, founded after a genocide. Why shouldn’t we recognize this genocide?”
“Israel needs support not only of [the] United States. Israel needs support of many other countries that think differently,” said the Russian deputy ambassador, speaking in English.
He referred to Israel’s opposition to new Polish legislation that would criminalize statements that Poland was complicit in the Holocaust.
“Poland now wants to delete some pages of the history, and we are on the side of Israel,” Frolov said, adding that the proposal by the Israeli lawmaker on Ukraine also aimed “to rewrite the history, like in the Polish case.”
A delegation from the Russian embassy in Israel was set to have meetings with Knesset officials in an attempt to scuttle the bill before it reaches the plenum, Arutz Sheva reported.