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Former Estonian President Hopeful for Democracy in Former Soviet Republics

Former President Meri's interview to be broadcast in Russian, Ukrainian, and other languages.

Washington, D.C., March 4, 2005 - Lennart Meri, the former President of Estonia, told the Voice of America (VOA) today that that he is very happy that Ukrainians were able to democratically elect their own leader in their recent presidential election.

"We cannot forget that Ukraine achieved it [democracy] despite a very strong opposition of certain people in Russia. But Ukraine has many friends, and I am very happy that the United States is among those friends that are supporting Ukrainians in the construction of a democratic society in Ukraine," he said.

In the television interview at VOA, which will be broadcast in Russian, Ukrainian, and other languages, the former president talked about the spread of democracy throughout countries that were once either part of the former Soviet Union or came under its sphere of influence. "We cannot dictate democracy," he said. "We must find, through love, through mutual understanding, the new way for all the very different cultures and nations, so that the way will be open for all for democracy."

Meri said he is hopeful about the future of democracy in Moldova and in the Caucasus, although he says the situation there is more difficult than in Ukraine. He believes the new states of Central Asia are an even more challenging case. According to him, strong cultural and religious feelings among Central Asian peoples are positive factors and can help them overcome their present crises.

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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