Ukraine marks anniversary of Nazi massacres in Kiev

Survivors, Ukrainian officials and Jewish community leaders pay tribute to the victims of a Nazi massacre at the Babi Yar ravine.

Survivors, high-ranking Ukrainian officials and Jewish community leaders paid tribute Thursday to victims of a Nazi massacre of Jews at the Babi Yar ravine. In his address to the nation on the 64th anniversary, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said that "the Babi Yar tragedy remains a painful memory for every Ukrainian." "The massacre is a black page in Ukrainian history as much as the mass famine," Yushchenko said in his address, posted on his official Web site. Millions died in Ukraine during the 1932-33 mass famine, induced by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's agricultural collectivization campaign. Yushchenko pledged "there will be no violence, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and international enmity in Ukraine." In a series of attacks this year that authorities describe as racially motivated, assailants beat a black US diplomat, a humanitarian worker of Iraqi descent and a number of foreigners of non-European origin. Vandalism at Jewish sites occurs often in Ukraine, home to a 100,000-strong Jewish community, though violent acts have become rare. At the ceremony in Babi Yar, now a memorial park just outside Kiev's city center, top-ranking Ukrainian officials, survivors and representatives of the Ukrainian Jewish community bowed their heads and laid flowers at the monument marking the area where the executions took place. Yushchenko was absent because of a cold, his office said. The massacre began in late September 1941 when Nazi forces occupying Kiev marched local Jews to the brink of the steep ravine and shot them. More than 33,700 Ukrainian Jews were killed over just a few days. Altogether, Nazis executed more than 100,000 people in Babi Yar, including thousands of Red Army prisoners of war and resistance fighters. "Our memory must become a warning for those who want to sow discord in our multinational family," Yushchenko said in the statement.