KRAKOW, Poland -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko is an "ally of freedom's cause," Vice President Dick Cheney said yesterday in toasting the new leader, who leans toward the West yet plans to maintain his nation's historic ties with Russia.
Echoing President Bush's inaugural address, Cheney talked about overcoming tyranny and hatred in his remarks during a meeting with the new leader of the former Soviet republic and, earlier, at a reception with survivors of the Holocaust.
"What President Yushchenko has accomplished is remarkable and inspiring and there are great tasks ahead," Cheney said in an appearance with the leader, who survived a nearly fatal poisoning to emerge victorious in a bitterly disputed election. "Free nations stood with him as he made his just demands that the voice of the people be heard."
Standing side by side with the Ukrainian leader at dual podiums in a cultural center, Cheney said, "President Yushchenko is an ally in freedom's cause, and President Bush and the American people stand with him."
Initially, the two leaders were scheduled to have a brief meeting and then eat dinner. But their meeting lasted for more than an hour -- more than twice as long as scheduled -- and they skipped dinner.
"The US as well as Russia, as well as the European Union, as well as Poland belong to the strategic partners of Ukraine," said Yushchenko, his chalky complexion bearing scars from the still-unsolved poisoning. "We want to pursue the processes of liberalization and democratization in all aspects of life that are so badly needed in Ukraine and other Eastern European countries, shoulder to shoulder with our partners."
Earlier, Cheney, who is on a three-day trip to southern Poland to attend the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps at nearby Auschwitz and Birkenau, told Holocaust survivors: "We must face down hatred together. We are dedicated to the task at hand and we will never forget."
In his inaugural and again during a news conference yesterday in Washington, Bush said recent elections in the Ukraine, in Afghanistan, and by the Palestinians -- as well as the upcoming elections this weekend in Iraq -- make him optimistic about the advance of freedom.
"Look what's happened in a brief period of time -- Afghanistan, Palestinian elections, which I think are incredibly hopeful elections, as well as the Ukraine and now Iraq," Bush said. "We're witnessing amazing history."
Today, Cheney will be among delegations led by leaders of more than 40 nations at the commemoration in Auschwitz.