WASHINGTON - US Senator John McCain penned a blistering column for Russian media, telling the Russian people that their President Vladimir Putin is a dissent-quashing tyrant who "doesn't believe in you."
The senior US lawmaker, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, accosted Putin and his associates for rigging elections, imprisoning and murdering opponents, fostering corruption and "destroying" Russia's reputation on the world stage.
"I am not anti-Russian," McCain wrote in the piece, which his office said was sent to both the Communist Party's Pravda newspaper as well as to online media outlet Pravda.ru. The latter was expected to publish it Thursday, his staff said.
"I am pro-Russian, more pro-Russian than the regime that misrules you today."
McCain last week made no secret of his intention to write an op-ed piece for Russian media after Putin had his own column published in The New York Times.
In that widely quoted piece, Putin criticized Obama's plan to bomb Russia's ally Syria, demanded that Moscow's plan to secure Syria's chemical weapon stockpiles be given time to work, and slammed Washington for "relying solely on brute force" to conduct its international affairs.
In a blunt, often personal counter-punch that ran more than 800 words, McCain wrote that he bears no ill will toward the Russian people, only the country's government which he says ignores humanity's "inalienable rights" of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
"President Putin and his associates do not believe in these values. They don't respect your dignity or accept your authority over them," wrote McCain, who was a staunch supporter of US President Barack Obama's early plan for a military strike against Syria for that regime's apparent use of chemical weapons.
"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," he added.
He brought up the case of Sergei Magnitsky, the Russian lawyer whose prison death three years ago became a black mark on Russia's human rights record.
Magnitsky, McCain said, "exposed one of the largest state thefts of private assets in Russian history."
And "for his beliefs and his courage, he was held in Butyrka prison without trial, where he was beaten, became ill and died." A posthumous "show trial" in a Russian court found him guilty, McCain noted.
Putin, in his third term as president, "is not enhancing Russia's global reputation. He is destroying it," McCain said.
"He has made her a friend to tyrants and an enemy to the oppressed," untrusted by countries seeking a more peaceful and prosperous world.
"President Putin doesn't believe in these values because he doesn't believe in you," McCain said.
The senator quipped to CNN last week that he wanted to write a piece for Pravda - presumably the mouthpiece newspaper of the Communist Party.
Confusion arose when a reporter for US magazine Foreign Policy contacted Pravda.ru, an electronic news website that is not connected to Pravda newspaper, with the suggestion.
McCain then said Tuesday he would offer his column to the two Pravdas, and "we'll see if both of them take it."
The hawkish senator has been highly critical of the Russian plan to disarm Syria of its chemical weapons.
He said the framework reached by US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would be "meaningless" without a UN Security Council resolution that threatens the use of force should Syria's President Bashar al-Assad not comply.