WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican Sen. John McCain is accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of corruption, repression and self-serving rule in an opinion piece for Pravda that answers the Russian leader's broadside published last week in an American newspaper.
In an op-ed headlined "Russians Deserve Better That Putin," McCain singles out 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 Magnitsky, who had accused Russian officials of colluding with organized criminals, had been beaten and denied medical treatment.
McCain also criticized Putin for siding with Syrian President Bashar Assad in the 2½ year civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people.
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," McCain wrote.
The senator submitted the editorial to Pravda and was told it would be posted on Thursday. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the editorial.
McCain assailed Putin and his associates for 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.
On Syria, McCain said 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 Arizona senator said.
McCain also criticized 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.
The article by McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, comes just days after the U.S. and Russian officials reached an ambitious agreement that calls for an inventory of Syria's chemical weapons program within a week, and its complete eradication by mid-2014. Diplomatic wrangling continues, however.
Last week, Putin blamed opposition forces for the latest deadly chemical weapons attack in Syria and argued President Barack Obama's remarks about America were self-serving in an opinion piece for The New York Times. Putin also said it was dangerous for America to think of itself as exceptional, a reference to a comment Obama made.
McCain was not the first U.S. lawmaker to respond to Putin. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., wrote in an editorial for the Moscow Times about the suppression of the Russian people and the disregard for basic human rights.
The account, contained in an Aug. 7 report from Newport, R.I., police, adds to the picture that has emerged of an agitated and erratic figure whose behavior and mental state had repeatedly come to authorities' attention but didn't seem to affect his security clearance.
Alexis, a 34-year-old information technology employee at a defense-related computer company, used a valid pass Monday to get into the Navy Yard and then killed 12 people before he was slain by police in a shootout that lasted more than a half-hour.
A day after the assault, the motive was still a mystery. U.S. law enforcement officials told The Associated Press that investigators had found no manifesto or other writings suggesting a political or religious motivation.
Alexis, a former Navy reservist, had been undergoing mental health treatment from the Department of Veterans Affairs since August but was not stripped of his security clearance, according to the law enforcement officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the criminal investigation was still going on.
He had been suffering from a host of serious mental problems, including paranoia and a sleep disorder, and had been hearing voices in his head, the officials said.
The assault is raising more questions about the adequacy of the background checks done on contract employees who hold security clearances — an issue that came up recently with National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus ordered two security reviews Tuesday of how well the Navy protects its bases and how accurately it screens its workers.
Similarly, President Barack Obama has ordered the White House budget office to examine security standards for government contractors and employees across federal agencies.
Mert Miller, associate director of Federal Investigative Services for the Office of Personnel Management, said in a statement that federal budget, personnel and intelligence officials were working to "review the oversight, nature and implementation of security and suitability standards for federal employees and contractors."
In general, he said, background security clearance investigations cover information about an individual's criminal history.
In addition, the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committees asked the VA for details about any treatment provided to Alexis.
At the U.S. Navy Memorial, in church and on the baseball field, the nation's capital paused to mourn the victims on Tuesday. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel laid a wreath at the memorial's "Lone Sailor" statue as taps played.
Just a few blocks from the Navy Yard, the Washington Nationals were back to playing baseball after their Monday night game with the Atlanta Braves was postponed because of the shooting. The Nationals wore blue and gold Navy caps during warm-ups, and a moment of silence was held before the first pitch.
Those killed included: Michael Arnold, 59, a Navy veteran and avid pilot who was building a light airplane at home; Sylvia Frasier, 53, who worked in computer security; Frank Kohler, 50, a former Rotary Club president in Lexington Park, Md., who proudly reigned as "King Oyster" at the annual seafood festival; and marine engineer and naval architect Vishnu Pandit, 61, an Indian immigrant.
In the Newport, R.I., incident, Alexis told police he got into an argument with someone as he was getting on a flight from Virginia to Rhode Island, where he was working as a naval contractor, and he said the person sent three people to follow and harass him.
He said he heard voices talking to him through a wall while at one hotel, so he changed hotels twice, but the voices followed him, according to the report. He said he feared they might harm him.
He also "stated that the individuals are using 'some sort of microwave machine' to send vibrations through the ceiling, penetrating his body so he cannot fall asleep."
Later that day, Newport police alerted the Rhode Island naval station and sent a copy of the police report, Newport police Lt. William Fitzgerald said Tuesday.
A spokeswoman for the station had no comment Tuesday.
Alexis came to the Washington area about two weeks later and had been staying at hotels. On Saturday, two days before the attack, he went to a Virginia gun store about 15 miles from the Navy Yard.
He rented a rifle, bought bullets and took target practice at Sharpshooters Small Arms Range, the store's attorney Michael Slocum said. Alexis then bought a shotgun and 24 shells, according to Slocum.
The FBI said during Monday's attack Alexis was armed with a shotgun. Officials said he also took a handgun from a law officer.
A recording of an emergency transmission released Tuesday captures the tense moments after the shooting. A firefighter tells a dispatcher as sirens wail in the background, "We have active shooter on the fourth floor. I'll get you update on the building location, with several victims down. At this time I've requested the mass casualty bus."
In addition to those killed at the Navy Yard attack, eight people were hurt, including three who were shot and wounded, authorities said. Those three were a police officer and two female civilians. They were all expected to survive.
Alexis had run-ins with the law in 2004 and 2010 in Texas and Seattle after he was accused of firing a gun in anger. He was not prosecuted in either case.
And his bouts of insubordination, disorderly conduct and being absent from work without authorization prompted the Navy to grant him an early — but honorable — discharge in 2011 after nearly four years as a full-time reservist, authorities said.
"He wasn't a stellar sailor," Navy spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby told CNN. "We know that."
But he said the offenses weren't "grievously serious" and the punishments for them are fairly mild. Kirby said there was a proposal to "administratively separate him from the Navy," with less than an honorable discharge, but Alexis volunteered to leave early and received an honorable discharge.
"Looking at his offenses while he was in the Navy, that the offenses while he was in uniform, uh, none of those give you an indication that he was capable of this sort of brutal, vicious violence," Kirby said.
As for Alexis' security clearance, Kirby said he received one around the time he enlisted. "It was good for 10 years. And it was at the secret level. So the security clearance was valid when he left the Navy in 2011. And because he wasn't out of work very long before he took this next job, the security clearance went with him."
Alexis joined the Florida-based IT consulting firm The Experts in September 2012, leaving a few months later to return to school. He came back in June to do part-time work at the Washington Navy Yard as a subcontractor, helping the military update computer systems.
The Experts' CEO, Thomas Hoshko, said that Alexis had "no personal issues," and he confirmed that Alexis had been granted a "secret" clearance by the Defense Security Service five years ago.
Alexis' clearance — lower than "top secret" — doesn't need to be renewed for 10 years. Still, the company said it hired outside vendors twice to check Alexis' criminal history.
Said Hoshko: Alexis' background check "came back clear."
Associated Press writers Pauline Jelinek, Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, Jesse Holland, Stacy A. Anderson, Brian Witte and Ben Nuckols in Washington contributed to this report.
LYONS, Colo. (AP) — As water recedes and flows east onto the Colorado plains — revealing toppled homes, buckled highways and fields of tangled debris — rescuers are shifting their focus from emergency airlifts to trying to find the hundreds of people still unaccounted for after last week's devastating flooding.
Federal and state emergency officials, taking advantage of sunny skies, said more than 3,000 people have been evacuated by air and ground, but calls for those emergency rescues have decreased.
"They've kind of transitioned from that initial response to going into more of a grid search," Colorado National Guard Lt. Skye Robinson said.
In one of those searches Tuesday, Sgt. 1st Class Keith Bart and Staff Sgt. Jose Pantoja leaned out the window of a Blackhawk helicopter, giving the thumbs-up sign to people on the ground while flying outside of hard-hit Jamestown.
Most waved back and continued shoveling debris. But then Bart spotted two women waving red scarves, and the helicopter descended.
Pantoja attached his harness to the helicopter's winch and was lowered to the ground. He clipped the women in, and they laughed as they were hoisted into the Blackhawk.
After dropping off the women at the Boulder airport, the Blackhawk was back in the air less than a minute later to resume the search.
The state's latest count has dropped to about 580 people missing, and the number continues to decrease as the stranded get in touch with families.
One of the missing is Gerald Boland, a retired math teacher and basketball coach who lives in the damaged town of Lyons. Boland's neighbors, all of whom defied a mandatory evacuation order, said Boland took his wife to safety Thursday then tried to return home.
Two search teams went looking for him Monday.
"He was very sensible. I find it amazing that he would do something that would put himself in harm's way," said neighbor Mike Lennard. "But you just never know under these circumstances."
State officials reported six flood-related deaths, plus two women missing and presumed dead. The number was expected to increase. It could take weeks or even months to search through flooded areas looking for bodies.
With the airlifts tapering, state and local transportation officials are tallying the washed-out roads, collapsed bridges and twisted railroad lines. The rebuilding effort will cost hundreds of millions of dollars and take months, if not years.
Initial assessments have begun trickling in, but many areas remain inaccessible and the continuing emergency prevents a thorough understanding of the devastation's scope.
Northern Colorado's broad agricultural expanses are especially affected, with more than 400 lane-miles of state highway and more than 30 bridges destroyed or impassable.
A Colorado Department of Transportation helicopter crew has been surveying damage, said department spokesman Ashley Mohr.
County officials have started their own damage tallies: 654 miles of roads in Weld County bordering Wyoming, 150 miles of roads in the Boulder County roads foothills, along with hundreds of bridges, culverts and canals.
Dale Miller, road and bridge director for Larimer County, said it could compare to the damage wrought by a 1976 flood that killed 144 people. It took two years to rebuild after that disaster.
State officials have put initial estimates at more than 19,000 homes damaged or destroyed throughout the flooded areas.