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U.S. Lawmaker Says Russia Denied Him Visa

Published: March 1, 2013 (Issue # 1748)



  • U.S. Congressman Chris Smith
    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

MOSCOW Asenior U.S. lawmaker says he has been denied aRussian visa as aresult ofhis vocal backing ofthe U.S. Magnitsky Act, which allows Washington topunish Russians implicated inhuman rights violations with avisa ban andasset freezes.

Chris Smith, aRepublican congressman fromNew Jersey who has served inthe House ofRepresentatives since 1981, said it was thefirst time his visa application toRussia had been denied over many years ofcoming tothe country.

"This is thefirst time [I've been denied]," Smith told Foreign Policy magazine on Wednesday. "I was shocked. During theworst days ofthe Soviet Union I went there repeatedly."

The visa denial is the latest sign of a cooling in U.S.-Russian relations following the U.S. Congress passage in November of the Magnitsky Act, which was fiercely opposed by Russian authorities, who have called it a form of meddling in the country's domestic affairs.

Russian lawmakers responded tothe act bypassing theso-called Dima Yakovlev law, which includes areciprocal visa ban andasset freezes foralleged U.S. human rights violators as well as aban onU.S. adoptions ofRussian orphans.

Valery Garbuzov, deputy director ofthe Institute forU.S. andCanadian Studies inMoscow, said Smith's visa denial could be thefirst volley inan extended visa war that perhaps only thenations' top leaders can halt.

"President Obama cannot cancel theMagnitsky Act, so relations will have tobe built onthese premises," he said. "At thesame time, theRussian response was excessive, which made thesituation snowball."

Smith, one ofthe most vocal members inthe U.S. Congress onhuman rights issues, said U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul tried tointervene onhis behalf tosecure avisa but had no success.

Thecongressman said he also met with Russian Ambassador toWashington Sergei Kislyak, who said thedecision toreject his visa application was made inMoscow, not atthe Russian Embassy inWashington.

AForeign Ministry official told TheSt. Petersburg Times that theministry never comments onindividual visa decisions.

But Alexei Pushkov, head ofthe State Duma's International Affairs Committee, said thesponsors ofthe U.S. Magnitsky Act will not be allowed totravel toRussia, inaccordance with the"spirit" ofthe Dima Yakovlev law.

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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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