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Georgian Prime Minister Supports Ukrainians' 'Wish to Live in Freedom'

Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania told VOA that Ukrainians "wish to live in freedom" and that "the people are able to choose their leaders themselves."

Washington, D.C., Dec. 9, 2004 -- Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania told the Voice of America Wednesday that Ukrainian opposition forces gathered on Kiev's Independence Square "wish to live in freedom," but the winner of the election was not as important as the fact that "the people are able to choose their leaders themselves."

Zhvania made his comments during the daily VOA Russian Service radio call-in show, which he described as his first chance to address a large Russian-speaking audience. During the hour-long show, Zhvania dismissed charges that the United States was interfering in the Ukrainian election, saying he was "constantly surprised and disappointed when many in Russia refer to the democratic processes going on in Georgia and Ukraine as...a process directed by America." He explained, "When hundreds of thousands of people in Georgia a year ago and in Ukraine now take to the streets to defend their freedom to choose their elected officials, this is not the result of some conspiracy. This is just people expressing their wish to live in freedom."

The Prime Minister was in Washington to accept one of the National Democratic Institute's W. Averell Harriman Democracy Awards, which is presented annually to individuals and organizations dedicated to democracy and human rights.

The full report with Prime Minister Zhvania's comments can be found on the VOA Russian website at:

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 44 languages, including English.

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