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McCain blasts Putin in Pravda op-ed, says Russians deserve better

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Russian citizens deserve better than to be ruled by President Vladimir Putin and his corrupt, repressive regime that has aligned their country with the world's biggest tyrants, U.S. Sen. John McCain wrote in a scathing commentary for Pravda on Thursday.

The Arizona Republican blasted Putin and his inner circle in the online, pro-Kremlin newspaper for subverting the Russian economy to the benefit of "just the powerful few" and putting themselves above the law in persecuting political rivals.

"They don't respect your dignity or accept your authority over them. They punish dissent and imprison opponents. They rig your elections. They control your media. They harass, threaten and banish organizations that defend your right to self-governance," McCain wrote in Pravda.ru. "To perpetuate their power, they foster rampant corruption in your courts and your economy and terrorize and even assassinate journalists who try to expose their corruption."

Putin has made Russia "a friend to tyrants and an enemy to the oppressed, and untrusted by nations that seek to build a safer, more peaceful and prosperous world," said the conservative veteran lawmaker.

McCain was offered the opportunity to submit his commentary to Pravda.ru because of his reaction to Putin's Sept. 11 op-ed in the New York Times, in which the Kremlin leader criticized President Obama's push for punitive airstrikes against Syria and disparaged his reference to American "exceptionalism" as dangerous and arrogant.

McCain said in an interview with CNN two days later that he would relish the opportunity to reply in Pravda, likely referring to the authoritative, Soviet-era predecessor to Pravda.ru that circulated to millions.

Dmitri Sudakov, editor of the English-language version of Pravda.ru, brought the idea of publishing McCain's rebuttal to the editor-in-chief, Inna Novikova, who readily agreed to publish the column "even though we did not share the views of John McCain at all," Vadim Gorshenin, chairman of the Pravda.ru board of directors, said in an accompanying article.

In the op-ed, McCain said Putin and his allies "write laws to codify bigotry against people whose sexual orientation they condemn" and jail critical voices like the Pussy Riot punk rock band "for having the audacity to protest President Putin's rule."

"He is not enhancing Russia's global reputation. He is destroying it," McCain said, describing himself as "more pro-Russian than the regime that misrules you today."

Putin has made Russia "a friend to tyrants and an enemy to the oppressed, and untrusted by nations that seek to build a safer, more peaceful and prosperous world," said the conservative veteran lawmaker.

Putin’s press secretary, Dmitri Peskov, was asked by Pravda.ru Thursday how the president reacted to McCain’s op-ed.

“We were obliged to read it, but we are hardly going to put our foot into McCain’s polemics,” the Kremlin spokesman said.

Voice of Russia radio characterized McCain as an old man still living in the Cold War era.

“McCain’s world: Goodbye, reason,” the broadcast said, likening McCain's refusal to recognize the changed world around him to the deluded character in the film “Goodbye, Lenin” who wakes from a coma and thinks she is still living in communist East Germany.

Russia Today television identified the 77-year-old senator as a "neocon" and stalwart cold warrior whose views were irrevocably shaped during the decades that the United States and Soviet Union were powerful adversaries.

Other commentators suggested that McCain’s views were a reflection of his living in the past.

“What he says about how the Russians should live shows quite a traditional, for Americans, perception that they are entitled to decide for other nations how to live, whom to elect and how they should control their own destiny,” Pravda TV commentator Vladimir Solovyov told viewers. “This is the senator's sincere belief that everyone dreams to live like the Americans, but this is not true. This is a traditional fallacy of not-very-young politicians of young nations."

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Twitter: @cjwilliamslat

carol.williams@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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