McCain’s wife, Cindy, visits Georgian refugee centers

TBILISI, Georgia (AP) — Republican John McCain’s wife visited centers where Georgian refugees from the recent war with Russia are sheltering, and she blamed Moscow for forcing them into misery.

“The only place these people want to be is home, and they can’t go home because of what has happened to them and because of the situation that the Russians have caused,” Cindy McCain said in brief remarks Tuesday outside one of the centers in Tbilisi.

She spoke about three hours after Russia recognized the independence of South Ossetia, the separatist region from which most of the refugees had fled, and Abkhazia.

A brief war broke out between Russia and Georgia after Georgia’s assault on South Ossetia’s capital, Tskhinvali, on Aug. 7.

“There is a lot to do here and my job in all of this is to make sure that the international community does not forget what is going on here,” Mrs. McCain said. “And more importantly, that we make sure to continue to bring light to the difficulties and the future difficulties that may occur particularly with a hard winter coming.”

The influx of tens of thousands of refugees places an additional strain on Georgia, which already had some 300,000 refugees from fighting in the two separatist republics in the 1990s.

One of the centers McCain visited, with about 400 residents, is in a school, which they will have to leave soon because the new school year starts Sept. 15.

Children stared from the shadows of dank stairwells, and adults shyly welcomed McCain into rooms that were bare but kept neatly in an apparent attempt to establish a foothold of normal life.

“We’re sitting here every day, waiting to see what our government will do,” said 42-year-old Inga Kokashvili.

John McCain, a U.S. senator, has been a strong critic of Russia in recent years and has proposed expelling Russia from the Group of Eight club of the world’s major developed democracies.

Mrs. McCain, her right wrist in a pink brace because of ligament damage that she said came from an overzealous supporter’s handshake, dismissed speculation that she had timed the trip to coincide with the Democratic Party convention.