McCain: I'm more pro-Russian than Putin
US Senator John McCain has insisted he is "more pro-Russian" than President Vladimir Putin, accusing him of corruption, repression and self-serving rule in an opinion piece for Pravda newspaper.
The article was answering the Russian leader's own opinion piece last week in The New York Times.
In the piece headlined Russians Deserve Better Than Putin, Mr McCain singles out Mr Putin and his associates for punishing dissent, specifically the death in prison of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.
The Russian presidential human rights council found in 2011 that Mr Magnitsky, who had accused Russian officials of colluding with organised criminals, had been beaten and denied medical treatment.
Mr McCain, a leading Republican who ran against Barack Obama for president in 2008, also criticised Mr Putin for siding with Syrian President Bashar Assad in the civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people.
His opinion piece was published on Thursday on the news website Pravda.ru, a website established by former Pravda journalists. The newspaper Pravda is an organ of the Communist Party and is no longer an influential or widely read newspaper, in contrast to its huge presence in the Soviet Union's media landscape.
The article comes just days after US and Russian officials reached an ambitious agreement that calls for an inventory of Syria's chemical weapons programme within a week, and its complete eradication by mid-2014. Diplomatic issues continue, however.
On Syria, Mr McCain said Mr Putin is siding with a tyrant. "He is not enhancing Russia's global reputation. He is destroying it. He has made her 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," the senator said.
Mr McCain insists that he is not anti-Russian but rather "more pro-Russian than the regime that misrules you today."
"President Putin doesn't believe ... in you. He doesn't believe that human nature at liberty can rise above its weaknesses and build just, peaceful, prosperous societies. Or, at least, he doesn't believe Russians can. So he rules by using those weaknesses, by corruption, repression and violence. He rules for himself, not you," Mr McCain wrote.
He accused Mr Putin and his allies of writing laws that codify bigotry, specifically legislation on sexual orientation. A new Russian law imposes fines and up to 15 days in prison for people accused of spreading "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" to minors.
Mr McCain also attacked the imprisonment of the punk rock band Pussy Riot. The three women were convicted of hooliganism after staging an anti-Putin protest inside a Russian Orthodox Church.
In his opinion piece for The New York Times, Mr Putin blamed opposition forces for the latest deadly chemical weapons attack in Syria and argued that Mr Obama's remarks about America were self-serving. He also said it was dangerous for America to think of itself as exceptional, a reference to a comment Mr Obama made.