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Bush, Putin invited to join Holocaust Forum in September in Ukraine
Journal Staff Report

KIEV, May 10 – U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin were invited to join the World Holocaust Forum that will take place in Kiev in September, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said Wednesday.

Bush and Putin have been separately planning this year to visit Ukraine, a country that underscores a growing geopolitical rivalry between the U.S. and Russia. But the invitation may lead to a situation when both leaders come at the same time.

“We have a joint opportunity once again to remind the world, especially to the younger generation, that it is important to remember lessons of history and to prevent any signs of intolerance in ethnic relations,” Yushchenko wrote in letters sent to Bush and Putin.

The forum is planned to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the Babiy Yar massacre of Jews, but also Ukrainians, Russians and other ethnic groups, by the Nazis during the World War II.

Within two days, on Sept. 29 and Sept. 30, 1941, more than 33,000 Jews have been killed and buried by Nazis at Babiy Yar, a large ravine in Kiev that had later become the grave for more than 100,000 victims, including 40,000 Jews, according to historical documents.

In 1991, U.S. President George H.W. Bush, the father of the current U.S. president, paid a visit to Babiy Yar and rendered homage to the memory of victims. The site was also attended by U.S. President Bill Clinton in June 2000.

The Voice of America, citing a source at the White House, reported earlier this week that Bush had been planning to visit Ukraine later this year, possibly in the summer.

Viktor Chernomyrdin, the Russian Ambassador to Ukraine, said Wednesday that Putin has been considering to pay the visit to Ukraine after the new Ukrainian government is formed following the March 26 general election.

“Of course, [Putin] will come,” Chernomyrdin told reporters in Kiev. “Once you form the government.”

Yushchenko told U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney at a meeting last week that the new government will probably be formed in June.

Ukraine, the second biggest country in the former Soviet Union, tilted geopolitical balances in December 2004 after Yushchenko, a pro-Western leader, had defeated a pro-Russian candidate to win the dramatic presidential election.

Ukraine has been since pursuing a pro-Western foreign policy, including plans to quickly join NATO, which has been irritating Russia and leading to repeated trade clashes between the two. (nr/ez)

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