Burning in hell: Russian press sheds few tears for McCain

Moscow (AFP) –


Russian pro-Kremlin media pulled no punches on Monday in condemning John McCain, who died of a brain tumour at the weekend, as Washington's "chief Russophobe".

McCain, who died aged 81 on Saturday, irked Russia with his support for pro-Western leaders in ex-Soviet Georgia and Ukraine as well as his strong backing for sanctions over Moscow's annexation of Crimea.

"McCain became the chief symbol of Russophobia," Rossiya 1 television said, adding that he "couldn't stand Russia's independent foreign policy".

McCain "adored war. If you haven't been killed yet, that's not McCain's fault. He tried," wrote pro-Kremlin tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda in a biting editorial.

Accusing the former Navy pilot of lying about being tortured while being held prisoner during the Vietnam War, the popular tabloid concluded with the hope that McCain is now burning in hell.

"Senator McCain loved the flames of war. Let's believe he'll have enough flames where his soul is resting," it wrote.

Life News, a pro-Kremlin tabloid news site, mocked the "chief Russophobe" for his decision to publish a 2013 op-ed aimed at Russians on an obscure news site called Pravda.ru.

He apparently believed the website to be connected the once-powerful Soviet newspaper Pravda.

"Evidently no one told the senator that there had been certain changes in Russia since his time in captivity in Vietnam," it wrote.

McCain was "a convinced hawk who pecked at Russia out of principle," Rossiya 1 reported on its main news show on Sunday evening, devoting more than four minutes to the senator's life.

McCain "firmly supported all the military operations and wars that America unleashed -- Kosovo, Iraq, Libya -- if he had not twice lost presidential campaigns, everything could have been even more catastrophic," it reported.

The high-rating show included the detail that McCain "was shot down in Vietnam by a Soviet SA 75-Dvina missile complex".

While stressing McCain's contempt for President Donald Trump, the show predicted that US "attempts to restrain and isolate Russia with harsh sanctions will continue -- just now without John McCain".

- 'Irreconcilable enemies' -

Russia's reaction contrasted starkly with that of Ukraine, where McCain was a frequent visitor and top politicians expressed condolences.

President Petro Poroshenko said the senator was "a great personality" and recalled how, during a 2016 visit to eastern Ukraine, he had refused to duck out of visiting troops in an area under artillery fire.

"Ukraine has many friends, but no one will replace John McCain," wrote Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin on Twitter.

Ukrainians including an aide to the interior minister backed the idea of renaming a street in Kiev after McCain.

By contrast, Russian President Vladimir Putin has not issued any message of condolence and some Kremlin-loyal officials gave extremely hostile reactions.

"About McCain's death, I can say the following: as a good Christian I wish all irreconcilable enemies of my Motherland peace and calm -- in the afterlife, naturally," editor-in-chief of Kremlin-funded RT television Margarita Simonyan wrote on Twitter.

Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the Senate's international affairs committee, wrote on Facebook that McCain's "only ideology" was "protect your own and beat up the others".

However some Russian politicians showed their respect.

Leonid Slutsky, head of the lower house of parliament's foreign affairs committee, told the RIA Novosti state news agency that McCain was a "courageous and principled person".

Oleg Morozov, a member of the Senate's foreign affairs committee, on Facebook praised McCain's frankness.

"An enemy died, salute him for honest enmity, for honest hatred, for refusal to reconcile. Others dissemble. He said what he thought."

He added: "Let God receive his dark soul and determine its future".