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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Soviet Museum Gets a Big Boost

TBILISI, Georgia -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said Friday that he supported opening a museum dedicated to Soviet repression in Ukraine, but acknowledged that it would be difficult.

Yushchenko made the comments while visiting the Museum of Soviet Occupation in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, which chronicles the fate of thousands of Georgians repressed and killed by the Soviet secret police.

"When I am uttering these words, I understand that certain political forces will be furious," Yushchenko said in remarks released by his office. "But I believe we must do it for our grandfathers and great-grandfathers, and for our children and grandchildren."

Yushchenko, who like Georgian counterpart Mikheil Saakashvili has sought to pull his country out of Russia's shadow, has repeatedly pushed for further recognition of Soviet crimes.

Last year, he won parliamentary approval for a law recognizing the 1932-33 famine, which many blame on Stalin, as genocide.

Moscow strongly protested the move, and the Russia-leaning party of Ukraine's prime minister, Viktor Yanukovych, refused to vote for the measure.

Opinion polls have shown that Ukrainians overwhelmingly welcomed the Soviet collapse; in 1991, more than 90 percent of Ukrainians voted in support of declaring the country independent.

Since then, however, Ukraine has struggled to re-fashion its relations with Moscow, triggering sharp disputes between Ukraine's more pro-European west and the Russian-speaking east and south over how close relations with its former ruler should be.

At least one other former Soviet republic, the Baltic state of Latvia, has a museum dedicated to the Soviet period, as well as the Nazi occupation during World War II.

Speaking on the eve of the two presidents' visit to the year-old museum, Saakashvili said the institution is not designed as anti-Russian.

"This was a Soviet occupation of Georgia not a Russian occupation," he said at a parliamentary briefing.

"If someone on the peripheries of Georgia is offended by the creation of this museum in Tbilisi, then we are not guilty in this. With all responsibility, I will say that this museum illuminates the history of Georgia and it exists to ensure that such pages of history are never again repeated."