McCain turns down offer for ‘imaginary’ Ukrainian offshoot

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainSenate's defense authorization would set cyber doctrine Senate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill Overnight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions MORE (R-Ariz.) turned down an offer to monitor elections in a self-proclaimed independent country that broke off from Ukraine last year.

The national security hawk and 2008 Republican nominee for president was invited to monitor upcoming local elections in the unrecognized Luhansk People’s Republic by its self-identified leader Igor Plotnitsky, Russian state-owned TASS news agency reported on Monday. 

"You know, if the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] doesn’t want to come, I would like to ask you, as the free press, to convey my invitation to the most upright man, the world’s most democratic democrat who travels the world teaching the rules of democracy,” Plotnitsky said.

“The one who honestly defended U.S. skies over Vietnam, the one who was so consumed by the thoughts about democracy that he did not notice how he was shot down and held captive in Vietnam where he must have learned the basics of democracy,” he added.

“I am speaking about Sen. McCain.”

European leaders are likely to reject the legitimacy of the upcoming elections in the disputed territory in eastern Ukraine, which are being held in parallel to Ukrainian elections in October.

McCain was not amused by the invitation.

“While I do not typically monitor the elections of imaginary countries, I am grateful for this unique invitation,” the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman said in a statement.

“If the so-called ‘Luhansk People’s Republic’ is interested in democratic elections, I suggest its adherents put down their weapons and participate in the next round of elections in a free and united Ukraine,” he added.

McCain has repeatedly pressed for greater U.S. engagement to support Ukraine in its struggles against pro-Russian separatists in the East.

The upcoming elections in the offshoot region are not likely to meet OSCE standards and could destabilize the already fragile peace process by undermining the Ukrainian government in Kiev, analysts worry.