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The Swedish King And Leonid Kuchma

The King of Sweden, Carl XVI Gustaf, and his wife are currently visiting Ukraine for four days. Together with President Victor Yushchenko, they traveled to Poltava in central Ukraine to see the preparations to mark the 300th anniversary of the 1709 Battle of Poltava.

It was there where Russian forces famously defeated the combined armies of Swedish King Charles XII and Ivan Mazepa, a Cossack general.

It reminds me of a funny story a colleague once told me about former President Leonid Kuchma. Apparently while on a state visit to Sweden, Kuchma, who was famous for liking a tipple, asked the Swedish king why the Swedish forces couldn't have beaten the Russians. He then said -- and I'm paraphrasing here -- if you did, we would now be living in a civilized country.

-- Irene Chalupa

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