WASHINGTON — Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on Friday defended calling for Russians to assassinate President Vladimir Putin, saying it would be the quickest way to end the war in Ukraine.
In an interview on Fox News' "Fox and Friends," Graham said he hopes someone in Russia will understand that Putin is "destroying Russia and you need to take this guy out by any means possible."
The comment came after he floated the suggestion in a Fox News interview Thursday night and again on Twitter.
"Is there a Brutus in Russia? Is there a more successful Colonel Stauffenberg in the Russian military?" Graham tweeted, referring to Julius Caesar's assassin and the German officer who tried to kill Hitler. "The only way this ends is for somebody in Russia to take this guy out. You would be doing your country — and the world — a great service."
"The only people who can fix this are the Russian people," he wrote in a second tweet. "Easy to say, hard to do. Unless you want to live in darkness for the rest of your life, be isolated from the rest of the world in abject poverty, and live in darkness you need to step up to the plate."
Russian officials pounced on Graham's comments, with Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov telling reporters, "Unfortunately, in such an extremely tense atmosphere, there is a hysterical escalation of Russophobia. These days, not everyone manages to maintain sobriety, I would even say sanity, and many lose their mind."
The Russian ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov, said on Facebook that Graham's statement was "unacceptable and outrageous" and said the degree of Russophobia and hatred of Russia in the U.S. is "off the scale."
"It is impossible to believe that a senator of a country that promotes its moral values as a 'guiding star' for all mankind could afford to call for terrorism as a way to achieve Washington’s goals in the international arena," he continued, demanding an official explanation and condemnation of the "criminal" comments.
Graham responded to the ambassador in the Friday interview, saying he is supporting a war criminal who is engaged in war crimes in front of the world.
The Republican senator also faced backlash from conservative members of his own party.
"This is an exceptionally bad idea," tweeted Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. "Use massive economic sanctions; BOYCOTT Russian oil & gas; and provide military aid so the Ukrainians can defend themselves. But we should not be calling for the assassination of heads of state."
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., tweeted that the world needs leaders with "calm minds & steady wisdom. Not blood thirsty warmongering politicians trying to tweet tough by demanding assassinations."
And Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., tweeted, "When has Sen. Graham encouraging regime change ever ended badly?"