August 25, 2008 / 9:59 PM / in 9 years

Cindy McCain visiting Georgia on humanitarian mission

SACRAMENTO, California (Reuters) - Cindy McCain, wife of U.S. Republican presidential candidate John McCain, is traveling to Georgia this week to assess the humanitarian situation there after its military conflict with Russia, the Arizona senator said on Monday.

McCain, who has made foreign policy a cornerstone of his White House bid, strongly criticized Russia from the start of its charge into Georgia, a former Soviet satellite state, putting him ahead of President George W. Bush and Democratic presidential rival Barack Obama in his criticism of Moscow.

Bush and Obama, an Illinois senator, matched McCain’s tough rhetoric later as the conflict worsened.

Cindy McCain, a philanthropist who often does humanitarian trips abroad, told Time magazine in an interview she had wanted to visit the region since the conflict started.

“She is on her way to the little country of Georgia,” Sen. McCain told a fundraising lunch in California without giving details on what she would do there.

McCain praised the Georgian government and declared: “Russian aggression is now basically trying to dismember that country in many ways.”

Russia and Georgia, which hosts two major energy pipelines, went to war after Tbilisi tried to retake the breakaway pro-Russian province of South Ossetia on August 7-8, prompting an overwhelming counter-attack from Moscow.

Russian troops moved into Georgia beyond South Ossetia and a second separatist region of Abkhazia, leading to criticism from the United States and others that Moscow had gone too far.

Reporting by Andrew Gray, writing by Jeff Mason, editing by David Wiessler

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