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Magnitsky Act Sparks Russian Fury

Published: December 7, 2012 (Issue # 1738)



  • The U.S. Capitol, where the Magnitsky Act cleared the Senate by 92 to 4 votes on Thursday.
    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

MOSCOW Russia will impose avisa ban onU.S. citizens accused ofhuman rights abuses inresponse tothe "absurd" trade andhuman rights bill passed bythe U.S. Senate onThursday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

"We will also close entry toAmericans who are guilty ofhuman rights violations," Lavrov told reporters after ameeting with Secretary ofState Hillary Clinton inDublin late Thursday.

TheMagnitsky Act, which lifts Cold War-era trade restrictions but also imposes sanctions onsuspected human rights offenders, cleared theSenate by92 to4 votes onThursday.

U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed themove andis expected tosign thebill intolaw before theend ofthe year.

Thelaw repeals theCold War-era Jackson-Vanik amendment, which barred theUnited States fromestablishing normal trade relations with Russia because ofrestrictions theSoviet Union imposed onthe emigration ofJews andother minorities.

TheUnited States was obliged tolift Jackson-Vanik after Russia joined theWorld Trade Organization earlier this year.

But another section ofthe bill bans Russian citizens believed tohave been involved inthe arrest, prosecution anddeath incustody oflawyer Sergei Magnitsky andother human rights violations fromentering theUnited States.

TheForeign Ministry has called thehuman rights component ofthe bill "an exercise inthe theater ofthe absurd" andwarned immediately that thebill would have a"negative impact onbilateral relations," theresponsibility forwhich "lies entirely with theUnited States."

No names have yet been mentioned as candidates forRussia's retaliatory list ofU.S. human rights offenders, but Alexei Pushkov, thechairman ofthe State Duma International Affairs Committee, has suggested that it could blacklist U.S. officials accused ofhuman rights violations inAfghanistan andIraq.

Earlier it had been suggested that theRussian list would target U.S. officials involved inthe arrest andprosecution ofarms dealer Viktor Bout, who was extradited fromThailand tothe United States over Russian objections in2010.

Ananonymous government source told Kommersant that theresponse would be "entirely symmetrical." "We will have as many people onour list as they have ontheirs. If they add some people later so will we," thesource said.

President Obama immediately welcomed thenormalization oftrade relations, but made no direct reference tothe human rights component ofthe bill.

"I commend theHouse andSenate forworking ona bipartisan basis topass legislation toend theapplication ofthe Jackson-Vanik amendment toRussia andMoldova, allowing me toextend Permanent Normal Trade Relations toboth countries. I look forward toreceiving andsigning this legislation," he said ina statement posted onthe White House website late Thursday.

"My administration will continue towork with Congress andour partners tosupport those seeking afree anddemocratic future forRussia andpromote therule oflaw andrespect forhuman rights around theworld."





 


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