Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko is expected to ask Israel to recognize the genocide of the Ukrainian people in the 1930s by their communist government when he visits here in about two weeks, sources said. Israel is not expected to accede to the request, which has won the support of Jewish community leaders in Ukraine, so as not to damage its relationship with Vladimir Putin's government at a sensitive time.

Millions of Ukrainians died of hunger from 1931 to 1932 following the collectivization of farming in the Soviet Union by Joseph Stalin. Famine was particularly severe in Ukraine, which was a regional breadbasket and was strongly opposed to the move. At the same time the communist government attempted to wipe out Ukrainian intelligentsia and nationalists, with estimations of the number of victims ranging from a million and a half to 10 million.

A number of countries, including the United States, have recognized these acts as genocide, however, Russia vigorously rejects this definition, prefering to use the term "tragedy."

Members of the Jewish community in Ukraine say Yushchenko also intends to present a proposal in the parliament in Kiev to recognize the suffering of the Jewish people in the Holocaust and the suffering of the Ukrainian people.

The chairman of the General Council of Jewish organizations, Joseph Zisels, who met with Yushchenko last Monday, said Sunday: "Israelis understand more than anyone what genocide is and Yushchenko therefore expects that Israelis will also recognize the Ukrainian genocide. We don't think it is the same as the Holocaust, but it is also a terrible tragedy with seven or eight million murdered."

Last week Yushchenko signed a presidential order to return to the Jewish community 700 Torah scrolls that were confiscated from the community by the communists. The move is believed to be an attempt to soften up Jewish and Israeli public opinion ahead of his visit. He is expected to bring some of the scrolls to the Presidential Residence in Jerusalem during his visit.

An attempt to organize a visit by Yushchenko to Israel was made about six months ago by Rabbi Moshe Azman, Ukraine's Chabad rabbi, and Mordechai Tzivin, an Israeli attorney active in international Jewish causes. But Israeli government officials postponed the visit, among other reasons because Yushchenko wanted to be in Israel on Holocaust Day and to participate in a ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial.