August 26, 2008 in Nation/World

Cheney to visit Georgia, 2 other ex-Soviet republics

Russia’s parliament backs invaded areas’ independence
By Dan Eggen Washington Post
Associated Press photo

Abkhazia leader Sergei Bagapsh, right, and South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity applaud during the State Duma session in Moscow on Monday.
(Full-size photo)

Cindy McCain goes to Georgia

 SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Cindy McCain, the wife of Sen. John McCain, flew Monday evening to the Republic of Georgia, where a military confrontation with Russia over disputed territory has become an issue on the presidential campaign trail.

 John McCain, the presumptive Republican candidate, announced the visit to a group of fundraisers in Sacramento. McCain spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker confirmed that his wife was en route to Georgia and said she is visiting as part of the U.N. World Food Program. Hazelbaker said she will meet with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and visit with wounded Georgian soldiers.

 McCain aides denied that the trip was scheduled to occur during the Democratic National Convention, and specifically on the day that Cindy McCain’s counterpart, Michelle Obama, was to speak.

WASHINGTON – Vice President Cheney will travel next week to war-ravaged Georgia as part of a swing through several former Soviet republics, making him the highest-level U.S. emissary to visit the country since hostilities between Russia and Georgia broke out this month, officials said Monday.

The trip will put the Bush administration’s most prominent hawk in a war zone still occupied by lingering Russian troops, and is likely to irritate leaders in Moscow, who have condemned the United States for siding with Georgia in the conflict.

It will also underscore the extent of disagreement within the Bush administration over how forcefully to confront Moscow. Cheney and his aides unsuccessfully argued in favor of increasing military aid to the fledgling Georgian democracy, according to officials familiar with the debate.

In Moscow, Russia’s parliament voted unanimously Monday to recognize the independence of two Georgian breakaway regions that its military invaded earlier this month.

If approved by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, the resolution would give a domestic legal basis for Russia to essentially take control of the areas, in defiance of the U.S.-backed government of Georgia.

In Washington, American officials condemned the measure, saying that it would be “unacceptable” for Russia to follow through. While it is not certain that Medvedev will give a green light to the legislation, its passage was a strong signal from Moscow.

“Today the parliament was doing the paperwork on what has happened de facto: Russia has formally acknowledged that it is a protector of South Ossetia and Abkhazia,” said Valery Solovey, a Moscow-based analyst with the Gorbachev foundation, a Western leaning think-tank.

Cheney’s trip, beginning next Tuesday, will include stops in three former Soviet republics – Georgia, Azerbaijan and Ukraine – and then a visit to Italy for an annual conference of world leaders, officials said.

U.S. officials said the visits to all locations except Ukraine had been in the works before the war in Georgia, which erupted Aug. 7 after Georgia launched an artillery barrage against the pro-Russian province of South Ossetia. Russia responded by advancing deep into Georgia, and it has kept military posts there despite a cease-fire.

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