U.S. Senator John McCain -- a former presidential candidate -- has delivered a blistering attack against Vladimir Putin, accusing the Russian leader of allying himself with global tyrants and ruling through violence and repression.
In an opinion piece Thursday in the Russian newspaper Pravda, McCain wrote that Russia supports a Syrian regime that is killing tens of thousands of its people to stay in power, and that is blocking the U.N. from condemning Syrian atrocities.
McCain said Mr. Putin has refused to consider the "massacre of innocents," and that he is destroying Russia's global reputation.
The senior Republican lawmaker also accused Mr. Putin and his associates of rigging elections, imprisoning and murdering opponents, and fostering corruption. McCain wrote that he is more pro-Russian than the current government in Moscow, adding that it "misrules" the Russian people today.
President Putin responded to McCain's piece by saying it shows his lack of knowledge about Russia.
The senator's column appeared a week after Mr. Putin stressed in The New York Times that the U.S. should not conduct unilateral military action in Syria. He said a U.S military strike "would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism," and could negatively affect efforts to address Iran's nuclear program and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Mr. Putin also said opposition fighters were responsible for using chemical weapons in Syria, in a bid to draw an outside military response. The U.S. has accused Syria's government of using poison gas against civilians.
A few days ago, the Obama administration reached a deal with Russia aimed at destroying Syria's chemical stockpiles. The disarmament plan, which is being debated by U.N. Security Council envoys, requires Syria's government to turn over details of its chemical weapons by Saturday.