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Kuchma: Removal Of Radio Svoboda Damaged Ukraine

Kyiv, 26 February 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Ukraine's President Leonid Kuchma has said the decision by a private company to end RFE/RL's Radio Svoboda broadcasts on the country's FM radio waves has had a negative impact on Ukraine's image.

Kuchma made the remarks yesterday at a press conference in Kyiv. He said the decision by the Dovira company to on February 17 to end transmissions of Radio Svoboda was a "private business matter."

Dovira said its decision was based on economic reasons. But RFE/RL officials say the decision was political and an infringement of freedom of speech. Ukrainian opposition politicians have criticized it as an attempt to muzzle the media ahead of a presidential election in October.

Kuchma invited RFE/RL to seek a collaboration with another commercial radio channel in the country.

Listeners can hear the broadcasts on the much harder-to-access shortwave band, as well as on the AM band in some parts of the country.