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Sharansky Says the Limiting of Democracy by Russia is a 'Huge Mistake'


Former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky told the VOA that Russia and the United States have common interests, but they are taking opposite approaches to the war on terrorism.

Washington, D.C., May 20, 2005- Former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky told the Voice of America (VOA) today that Russia and the United States have common interests, but they are taking opposite approaches to the war on terrorism.

"For the West," he said, "it means strengthening and broadening democracy, while for Russia it means, unfortunately, limiting democracy. That, I think, is a huge mistake."

Sharansky, who recently resigned from the Israeli cabinet of Ariel Sharon, made the remarks in an exclusive VOA TV interview that aired today during Obektiv (Focus), a daily, 30-minute television news broadcast in Russian.

While saying that democratic freedoms in Russia have deteriorated, he said he does not expect a return to past repression there because "the country has made giant strides from a society of fear to a society of freedom."

"There has definitely been backsliding in Russia away from democracy," Sharansky said, "and we must do all we can through democratic means to oppose this rollback. But there is no chance of a return to the Stalinist system because for this you need to instill fear in hundreds of millions of people. This is impossible without killing millions, so a return to the past is impossible."

Along with its inclusion in Obektiv (Focus), the interview also aired during Sobitiya i Razmyshleniya (Events and Opinions), a daily, one-hour radio news broadcast. VOA's other Russian-language broadcasts include 2 hours of radio programs daily via shortwave and affiliates, and a weekly 30-minute TV show, Okno v Mir (Window on the World). Programs are also available on the Internet at www.VOANews.com/Russian.

The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts more than 1,000 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of more than 100 million people. Programs are produced in Russian and 43 other languages, including English.

For more information, call the Office of Public Affairs at (202) 401-7000, or E-Mail publicaffairs@voa.gov.

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