Magnitsky Act Sparks Russian Fury
Published: December 7, 2012 (Issue # 1738)
MOSCOW Ś Russia will impose aávisa ban onáU.S. citizens accused ofáhuman rights abuses ináresponse toáthe "absurd" trade andáhuman rights bill passed byáthe U.S. Senate onáThursday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
"We will also close entry toáAmericans who are guilty ofáhuman rights violations," Lavrov told reporters after aámeeting with Secretary ofáState Hillary Clinton ináDublin late Thursday.
TheáMagnitsky Act, which lifts Cold War-era trade restrictions but also imposes sanctions onásuspected human rights offenders, cleared theáSenate byá92 toá4 votes onáThursday.
U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed theámove andáis expected toásign theábill intoálaw before theáend ofáthe year.
Theálaw repeals theáCold War-era Jackson-Vanik amendment, which barred theáUnited States fromáestablishing normal trade relations with Russia because ofárestrictions theáSoviet Union imposed onáthe emigration ofáJews andáother minorities.
TheáUnited States was obliged toálift Jackson-Vanik after Russia joined theáWorld Trade Organization earlier this year.
But another section ofáthe bill bans Russian citizens believed toáhave been involved ináthe arrest, prosecution andádeath inácustody ofálawyer Sergei Magnitsky andáother human rights violations fromáentering theáUnited States.
TheáForeign Ministry has called theáhuman rights component ofáthe bill "an exercise ináthe theater ofáthe absurd" andáwarned immediately that theábill would have aá"negative impact onábilateral relations," theáresponsibility foráwhich "lies entirely with theáUnited States."
No names have yet been mentioned as candidates foráRussia's retaliatory list ofáU.S. human rights offenders, but Alexei Pushkov, theáchairman ofáthe State Duma International Affairs Committee, has suggested that it could blacklist U.S. officials accused ofáhuman rights violations ináAfghanistan andáIraq.
Earlier it had been suggested that theáRussian list would target U.S. officials involved ináthe arrest andáprosecution ofáarms dealer Viktor Bout, who was extradited fromáThailand toáthe United States over Russian objections iná2010.
Anáanonymous government source told Kommersant that theáresponse would be "entirely symmetrical." "We will have as many people onáour list as they have onátheirs. If they add some people lateráŚ so will we," theásource said.
President Obama immediately welcomed theánormalization ofátrade relations, but made no direct reference toáthe human rights component ofáthe bill.
"I commend theáHouse andáSenate foráworking onáa bipartisan basis toápass legislation toáend theáapplication ofáthe Jackson-Vanik amendment toáRussia andáMoldova, allowing me toáextend Permanent Normal Trade Relations toáboth countries. I look forward toáreceiving andásigning this legislation," he said ináa statement posted onáthe White House website late Thursday.
"My administration will continue toáwork with Congress andáour partners toásupport those seeking aáfree andádemocratic future foráRussia andápromote theárule ofálaw andárespect foráhuman rights around theáworld."