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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."





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Aug. 28


Learn more about the citys upcoming municipal elections during the presentation of the project Road Map for the Municipal Elections being presented this evening in the conference hall on the third floor of Biblioteka at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. Steve Kaddins, a coordinator for Beautiful St. Petersburg, which gives residents an online forum to lodge complaints about infrastructure problems in the city, will be on hand to answer any questions. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and is open to all.



Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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