Russia’s Interior Ministry on Monday issued an arrest warrant for U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham following his comments related to the fighting in Ukraine.
In an edited video of his meeting on Friday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that was released by Zelenskyy’s office, Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, noted that “the Russians are dying” and described the U.S. military assistance to the country as “the best money we’ve ever spent.”
While Graham appeared to have made the remarks in different parts of the conversation, the short video by Ukraine’s presidential office put them next to each other, causing outrage in Russia.
The news came after Graham met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on Friday. During their meeting, the senator said U.S. military aid to the country was “the best money we’ve ever spent.” The Kremlin rebuked his remarks, referring to an edited video in which Graham appeared to praise the killing of Russians in the ongoing war in Ukraine.
The edited video was released by Zelensky’s office, showing Graham in his meeting with Zelensky saying “the Russians are dying” followed by the remarks about sending U.S. military aid to Ukraine.
After his remarks were criticized by Russia, Ukraine released a full video of the meeting which showed the two quotes were not linked. According to Reuters, the two remarks made by Graham were made in different parts of his conversation with the Ukrainian president.
“Finally, here’s an offer to my Russian ‘friends’ who want to arrest and try me for calling out the Putin regime as being war criminals: I will submit to jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court if you do. Come and make your best case. See you in The Hague!” Graham added.
After Russia criticised the comments, Ukraine released a full video of the interaction, showing that the two remarks were not linked.
On Sunday, Russia’s Investigative Committee said it was opening a criminal investigation into Graham’s comments, without specifying what crime he was accused of.
Russia has previously sanctioned dozens of US officials and politicians but has rarely sought the arrest of senior officeholders.
Graham disputed Russia’s criticism of his support for Ukraine by saying he had praised the spirit of Ukrainians in resisting Russia’s invasion with US assistance.
Russian officials were quick to attack Graham for his remarks. Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev said Graham was “an old fool.”Graham later dismissed Medvedev’s comments to Reuters, saying, “as usual the Russia propaganda machine is hard at work.” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova also took out her frustration on Telegram, saying, “Senator Graham has something to compare with. One of their investments led to World War II and the Holocaust.” The outrage included Margarita Simonyan, the head of Russian news channel RT, who appeared to insinuate Graham should be assassinated, the Daily Beast reported.
Graham is not the first American to anger Russia. The country has imposed sanctions on other American politicians and figures since the invasion, including President Joe Biden, former President Barack Obama, comedian Stephen Colbert and New York Attorney General Letitia James—who is currently suing former President Donald Trump but does not appear to have any direct connections to U.S.-Russia relations. In 2022, Russia sanctioned most members of Congress as well as many members of the Biden Administration. At one point last year, even Elon Musk was drawing criticism from Russia after suggesting he had a four-point plan that he claimed would end the fighting and save millions of lives.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine, more than a year ago, the U.S. has offered Ukraine military, financial and humanitarian support. Graham has been consistently outspoken about the importance of the U.S. supporting its Ukrainian ally. After a visit to Ukraine last week, Graham called on the U.S. to increase support for Ukraine in its fight against Russia, by sending more weapons. Graham is arguing that if the U.S. doesn’t fully support Ukraine, enough to win the war, that could send a signal to Beijing that China can take Taiwan. Meanwhile, the Biden Administration and NATO allies has imposed tight sanctions on Russia, including personal sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin and other top officials.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Sunday that “it’s hard to imagine a greater shame for the country than having such senators.”
The Investigative Committee, the country’s top criminal investigation agency, has moved to open a criminal inquiry against Graham, and the Interior Ministry followed up by issuing a warrant for his arrest as indicated Monday by its official record of wanted criminal suspects.
Graham, a leading Senate foreign policy hawk has been a staunch supporter of strong U.S. support of Ukraine.
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