McCain was shot down over Hanoi while on a bombing mission on October 26, 1967, and taken captive by the North Vietnamese. He spent five and a half years in a POW camp, and claims that he was tortured. His time in captivity left him unable to raise his hands above his head.
Although McCain's former Vietnamese prison guards have said that they have forgiven him for his bombing raids, and that they even rooted for him in the U.S. presidential elections, 70-year-old Yury Trushyekin has no such warm feelings.
"It's good that he didn't become president. Even in the camp they said how he really hated Russians, as he knew it was our missile that shot him down," Trushyekin told the MK v Pitere paper. "Russian-American relations would have suffered, that's for sure."
There has never been any official acknowledgement that Soviet soldiers served in Vietnam on the side of the communist North Vietnamese in the 1960s and 1970s. However, Trushyekin, currently in a hospital in Russia's second city of St. Petersburg, had no qualms about speaking about his time in the jungles of Southeast Asia.
"I got to Vietnam at the time when there were mixed units with Vietnamese," he said, adding that he had served as an officer in a missile unit.
On the fateful day that McCain was shot down, Trushyekin recalled that his squad was getting ready to leave their post defending a local bridge when two U.S. planes came into view.
"We were preparing to leave when the sirens sounded again," he said. "Two American F-4 Phantoms flew in. We had two missiles out of six left. The Vietnamese fired first. Their rocket missed, it fell into the jungle. One plane went round the hill, the other came over the bridge. We fired at this one."
After McCain's plane was downed, the North Vietnamese quickly discovered him in a nearby lake.
"His hands were covered in blood and he was in a state of shock," said the former Soviet officer. "It's lucky that he was able to put his pistol into the air, or they would have shot him straight away."
McCain, as the son of a top U.S. admiral, was a major catch for the North Vietnamese. Trushyekin recovered McCain's identity card, and even brought it back with him to the Soviet Union. However, he has since mislaid it.
The ex-Soviet officer says he did not hear or think about McCain again until he became the senator of Arizona in 1986.
"They were showing archive pictures, of how he was sitting in his plane, looking so young. And I thought, 'he looks awfully familiar,'" said Trushyekin.
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