Senator John McCain has a message for the Russian people: "I am pro-Russian, more pro-Russian than the regime that misrules you today."
In an opinion piece titled "Russians Deserve Better Than Putin," published by the Russian news website Pravda.ru, McCain took aim at the current Russian leadership, including President Vladimir Putin.
"They punish dissent and imprison opponents. They rig your elections. They control your media," the Arizona Republican said in his piece.
The piece by McCain comes one week after Vladimir Putin made headlines by publishing his own opinion piece, "A Plea for Caution from Russia" in the New York Times, on the eve of U.S. -- Russia negotiations over Syrian chemical weapons.
The senator, who does not support same-sex marriage in the U.S., also criticized Russia's recently passed anti-gay legislation, saying Russian lawmakers "codify bigotry against people whose sexual orientation they condemn."
A ban on the promotion of "gay propaganda" among minors became law in June, as Putin began his third term as president.
The article was published Thursday, after some initial confusion over which "Pravda" McCain would actually be writing for.
The Pravda McCain had publicly said he wanted to be published in is one of the oldest Russian newspapers, founded in 1912.
Pravda, which means "the truth" in Russian, became the biggest newspaper during the Soviet period of Russian history. It was the official mouthpiece of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party. The newspaper was closed down after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, then reopened in 1997 as the official paper of the Russian Communist Party. The current Pravda has a considerably smaller circulation compared to its Soviet glory days.
Pravda.ru, the news outlet that actually published McCain's piece, is an electronic news website founded in 1999. Even though the website also bears the name Pravda, it is not connected to Pravda newspaper. The website has English and Russian editions and covers everything from politics to fashion and celebrities.
While editors at the communist Pravda publication said last week they were not going to accept an op-ed by McCain, a spokesman for the senator said McCain submitted one anyway, in addition to Pravda.ru, since there was confusion over the two different Pravdas. As expected, it was not published by the newspaper.
Putin said Thursday in a press conference he was not aware of McCain's opinion piece about Russia.
In his piece, McCain also cited Putin's support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as well as Russia's recent actions in the United Nations as an example of failed foreign policies, saying, "He is not enhancing Russia's global reputation. He is destroying it."
The senator has been a strong advocate for military action against Syria, especially in light of the August 21 chemical weapons attack, and has been highly critical of the renewed diplomatic efforts between Russia and the U.S. This week, he told the Council of Foreign Relations, "I wish I could see the recent agreement between Russia and the United States to rid the Assad regime of its chemical weapons as a major breakthrough. Unfortunately, I cannot."
In the article, McCain focused his message on their day-to-day circumstances, arguing that Putin "has given you an economy that is based almost entirely on a few natural resources that will rise and fall with those commodities. Its riches will not last. And, while they do, they will be mostly in the possession of the corrupt and powerful few."
Reiterating that his message was written out of concern and compassion for the Russian public, McCain held firm. "When I criticize your government, it is not because I am anti-Russian," he said. "It is because I believe you deserve a government that believes in you and answers to you. And I long for the day when you have it."