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Europe

Cheney Pledges US Support For Ukraine

The US Vice President says Ukrainians should be able to live "without the threat of tyranny" from Russia as he met with the quarreling leaders of the Ukraine's government in Kyiv.

US Vice President Dick Cheney in Kyiv

Cheney called for Ukraine's feuding parties to reunite

Cheney's visit to Ukraine was part of a short tour of strategic allies in the region amid the fall-out from the brief war between Georgia and Russia.

Talks ran on twice as long as expected on Friday, Sept. 5, as Cheney met separately with President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko amid a domestic political conflict.

Urging Ukraine's leader to unite, the vice president implied that Russia was behind the country's difficulties.

"We believe in the right of men and women to live without the threat of tyranny, economic blackmail or military invasion or intimidation," said Cheney, referring to Russia's recent military intervention in Georgia.

"Ukraine's best hope to overcome these threats is to be united -- united domestically first and foremost and united with other democracies," he added.

Tensions mount over Georgian war

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko left, welcomes opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko at the Presidential office

Time for Yushchenko and Tymoshenko to kiss and make up?

Tymoshenko and Yushchenko have been feuding in recent weeks over Ukraine's ties to Russia. Yushchenko's office had accused the prime minister of failing to support Georgia when Russian troops invaded the Georgian enclave of South Ossetia early last month.

Meanwhile, Tymoshenko has denied reports that she has tilted towards Moscow and is about to form a new coalition with the pro-Russian opposition. However, she has not openly criticized Russia over the Georgia crisis.

Their feud culminated in the president's parliamentary allies walking out of the alliance on Tuesday and with Yushchenko threatening to dissolve parliament and call for an election if a new government is not formed within 30 days.

It would be the third election in as many years in Ukraine, where Yushchenko swept to power in a 2004 "Orange Revolution" with the promise of greater integration with the West.

Cheney's visit to the country comes as European officials suggest Ukraine could be the next flashpoint for tensions between Russia and the West following the war in Georgia.

Speaking Friday in Kyiv, the vice president said that the US had a "deep and abiding interest" in Ukraine’s security. Cheney added that Ukrainians should be able to live "without the threat of tyranny, economic blackmail and military invasion or intimidation."

Ukraine has applied to join the NATO alliance as well as the European Union, a move that has been supported by the Bush administration but one which has angered Moscow, which considers Ukraine to be within its sphere of influence.

Caught between East and West

US President George Bush and first lady Laura Bush pay tribute at the Holodomor Memorial with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and first lady Kateryna Yushchenko in Kyiv in 2008

With tough times in its past, Ukraine has the Bush administration's support in joining NATO

With Ukraine's coalition now divided, political leaders have voiced concern that the Kremlin might try to capitalize on the nation's persistent political instability.

In light of the Caucasus conflict, Yushchenko has said that he sees NATO membership as essential in order to protect Ukraine's territorial integrity.

"Ukrainians have the right to choose whether they wish to join NATO, and NATO has a right to invite Ukraine to join the alliance when we believe they are ready and that the time is right," said Cheney, adding that "no outside country has a veto."

In addition to addressing Ukraine's future with the alliance, the vice president's visit is also aimed at demonstrating US support for Georgia and securing allies like Ukraine against Russia.

During his time in Tbilisi on Thursday, Cheney slammed Russia's actions against Georgia, calling its military invasion an "illegitimate act that undermined its credibility." He also reiterated the US' support for Georgian membership in NATO.

While in Ukraine, Cheney is also slated to visit the Holodomor memorial to the country's famine victims before continuing on to Italy in the afternoon.

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