U.S. Lawmaker Says Russia Denied Him Visa
Published: March 1, 2013 (Issue # 1748)
MOSCOW — A senior U.S. lawmaker says he has been denied a Russian visa as a result of his vocal backing of the U.S. Magnitsky Act, which allows Washington to punish Russians implicated in human rights violations with a visa ban and asset freezes.
Chris Smith, a Republican congressman from New Jersey who has served in the House of Representatives since 1981, said it was the first time his visa application to Russia had been denied over many years of coming to the country.
"This is the first time [I've been denied]," Smith told Foreign Policy magazine on Wednesday. "I was shocked. During the worst days of the 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 to the act by passing the so-called Dima Yakovlev law, which includes a reciprocal visa ban and asset freezes for alleged U.S. human rights violators as well as a ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian orphans.
Valery Garbuzov, deputy director of the Institute for U.S. and Canadian Studies in Moscow, said Smith's visa denial could be the first volley in an extended visa war that perhaps only the nations' top leaders can halt.
"President Obama cannot cancel the Magnitsky Act, so relations will have to be built on these premises," he said. "At the same time, the Russian response was excessive, which made the situation snowball."
Smith, one of the most vocal members in the U.S. Congress on human rights issues, said U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul tried to intervene on his behalf to secure a visa but had no success.
The congressman said he also met with Russian Ambassador to Washington Sergei Kislyak, who said the decision to reject his visa application was made in Moscow, not at the Russian Embassy in Washington.
A Foreign Ministry official told The St. Petersburg Times that the ministry never comments on individual visa decisions.
But Alexei Pushkov, head of the State Duma's International Affairs Committee, said the sponsors of the U.S. Magnitsky Act will not be allowed to travel to Russia, in accordance with the "spirit" of the Dima Yakovlev law.
Pages:  [2 ]