Russians say 'nyet' to McCain's cash plea

Russia has turned down John McCain's request for campaign money – and had a bit of a laugh at his expense, snubbing him publicly as paybck for his increasingly tough stance against the country.

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Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, received a fundraising appeal from the Republican presidential nominee on Thursday, spokesman Ruslan Bakhtin said.

“Dear Friend,” begins the six-page letter sent to Churkin, asking for up to $US5,000 ($A7,095) to defeat Senator Barack Obama and help McCain “promote freedom and democracy throughout the world”.

McCain has proposed expelling Russia from the Group of Eight world's major industrial nations and says Russia deserves international condemnation for its August war with Georgia.

He also has derided President George W Bush for once saying he got a sense of Russian leader Vladimir Putin's soul the first time they met and locked eyes in 2001.

'Computer failure' suspected

“I looked in Putin's eyes. I saw three letters: a K, a G and a B,” McCain said in one of this year's presidential debates, referring to Putin's time in the Soviet Union's KGB security agency.

That approach has angered Moscow. Last month in New York, Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, cast McCain's foreign policy adviser, Henry Kissinger, as essentially clueless about the history behind the Georgian conflict.

The four-page fundraising appeal – signed by McCain – outlined the positions of his campaign and stated: “Please, sign and return your PLEDGE OF SUPPORT, along with your contribution of 35, 50, 100, 500, 1,000, 2,500 or even 5,000 dollars to the McCain-Palin Victory 2008 today.”

The letter, dated September 29, did not use Churkin's formal title, leading the ambassador to conclude that the request stemmed from “a computer failure” by McCain's campaign, Bakhtin said.

“It's evident that it was a mistake. It happens,” said Bakhtin, who said the diplomats were entertained by the mix-up. “Normally, they don't circulate these kinds of letters to diplomatic posts.”

Foreign contributions banned

Bakhtin emphasised that “Russian authorities are in no way engaged in funding political campaigns or political activities abroad”.

He said the mission had not sent any direct reply to the McCain campaign.

Brian Rogers, a spokesman for the campaign, said he was unable to pinpoint what caused the blunder.

“It sounds like they might have been sent to the wrong place. We obviously don't solicit campaign contributions from people who aren't able to contribute,” he said.

US presidential campaigns are legally barred from accepting foreign contributions.