- Ukraine - USA - Viktor Yushchenko - Yulia Tymoshenko
US Vice President Dick Cheney was set Friday to meet with Ukraine's squabbling leaders as he continues his tour to bolster US allies in the region following the conflict between Georgia and Russia.
Cheney was to meet with President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, whose political feuding has intensified over ties with Russia during Moscow's confrontation with Georgia and the West.
Ukraine has applied to join NATO and the European Union, angering Moscow which sees the country as part of its sphere of influence, but its political leaders are deeply divided.
European officials have suggested Ukraine could be the next flashpoint for tensions between Russia and the West after the war in Georgia last month that has left Russian troops occupying positions deep inside Georgian territory.
Cheney, who has said his visit is intended to bolster US allies in the former Soviet region, will likely push the pro-Western leaders to patch up their crumbling government coalition, analysts said.
Tymoshenko and Yushchenko were the icons of the 2004 pro-Western Orange Revolution and have both been considered Western-leaning politicians despite persistent and sharp disagreements on domestic political issues.
Yushchenko on Wednesday accused his opponents in parliament of a coup attempt and threatened early parliamentary elections after the prime minister's party sided with pro-Russian deputies to pass laws cutting his powers.
Tymoshenko, once a close ally of Yushchenko, in turn accused the president of having "destroyed" the governing coalition by pulling out of an alliance with her party after the approval of the legislation.
Tymoshenko has denied press reports she has tilted towards Moscow and is about to form a new coalition with the pro-Russian opposition, but she but has not spoken out on the Georgia crisis and abstained from a vote to impose restrictions on the movements of Russia's Black Sea fleet, which is based along with the Ukrainian navy in Sevastopol.
Ukrainian analysts said the political crisis could set back Ukraine's attempts to join NATO and the EU, but that Cheney would seek to keep in place the country's increasingly fragile pro-Western leadership.
"Cheney will try to push Ukraine towards preserving the pro-Western coalition," which has not yet been formally disbanded, said Valery Chaly, an analyst at the Razumkov Centre for political and economic research.
Segodnya, a newspaper close to the pro-Russian opposition, said the crisis was "very annoying news" for Washington, which wants "Tymoshenko and Yushchenko working together to bring Ukraine into NATO."
Cheney is to meet the two leaders separately -- the prime minister for one-on-one talks in the morning, followed by lunch with the president.
He is scheduled to visit the Holdomor memorial to Ukraine's famine victims before departing later in the afternoon for Italy.
On Thursday, during a visit to Tbilisi, the vice president accused Russia of an "illegitimate" invasion to redraw the map of Georgia and cast doubt on whether Russia could be trusted as an international partner.
"Russia's actions have cast grave doubt on Russia's intentions and on its reliability as an international partner, not just in Georgia but across this region and indeed across the international system," Cheney said.