Russian government officials and state media called for Lindsey Graham’s assassination this weekend after a video of his comments to Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky was edited to make it look like he made a disparaging comment about killing Russians.
The edited video was shared widely in Russia, appearing to show Mr Graham concluding a discussion over US support for Ukraine by saying: “And the Russians are dying. It’s the best money we’ve ever spent.”
In fact, Mr Graham’s comment about US spending was not linked to the deaths of Russians, but to helping Ukrainians defend their country. His full remarks, which were released by the Ukranian president’s office, show his “Russians are dying” observation was followed by Mr Zelensky saying: “Yes, but they came to our territory. We are not fighting on their territory.”
Nonetheless, the edited version of the exchange has led to a major backlash against the US senator in Russia.
Dmitry Medvedev, one of Vladimir Putin’s top aides who served alongside him as president and then prime minister, threatened Mr Graham with the “sad fate” of assassination like “Robert Kennedy, Huey Long, Clementa Carlos Pinckney, John Milton Elliott, Wayne Owens and other American politicians” and called him an “old fool”.
“In his beloved America, not only ordinary people are regularly killed, but dirty money is also being spent on killing senators,” Mr Medvedev said on his Telegram channel, according to the Daily Beast.
The head of state news channel RT, Margarita Simonyan, referred to a Soviet operative famous for his involvement in the assassination of Leon Trotsky, Pavel Sudoplatov, saying: “If Lady Graham really said that the money for the killing of Russians is the best money the US ever spent... I hope that in our country, the sons or grandchildren of Sudoplatov are alive, his pupils, or the descendants of his pupils. It’s not even hard. We have his address.”
Mr Graham met with Mr Zelensky on Friday. During their conversation he mentioned that the Ukrainian resistance reminded him of “our better selves in America. There was a time in America that we were this way, fighting to the last person, we were going to be free or die.”
Mr Graham later told Reuters: “It has been a good investment by the United States to help liberate Ukraine from Russian war criminals… Mr Medvedev, if you want Russians to stop dying in Ukraine, withdraw. Stop the invasion. Stop the war crimes. The truth is that you and Putin could care less about Russian soldiers.”
Russia also issued an arrest warrant for Mr Graham on Monday, citing his “dying Russians” comment.
Mr Graham was added to a list of wanted criminal suspects on the interior ministry’s website, while Russia’s top criminal investigation agency said it had launched an inquiry into the incident.
The Investigative Committee said a criminal case had been opened against Mr Graham on the basis that he “declared the financial involvement of the United States in causing the death of Russian citizens”.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Sunday that “it’s hard to imagine a greater shame for the country than having such senators”.
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