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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, July 31


Develop your leadership abilities during a lecture by famous Russian author and coach Radislav Gandapas. The event starts at 9 a.m. at 5 Lodeinopolskaya Ulitsa. The price for entry is 20,500 rubles ($570).


Relax and enjoy a Parisian atmosphere with some romantic and laidback jazz tunes during the Night of French Music at Lenny Jam Cafe, 63 Ligovsky Prospekt. The entrance fee is 250 rubles ($7).


The Womens Business Club is hosting a Beauty Brunch where participants are invited to discuss the latest news in the beauty industry and listen to lectures by professional stylists in the business.



Friday, Aug. 1


Bikers from all around the world will gather to take part in a parade, extreme shows and rock concerts during the International Biker Festival that revs its engines today and runs through Aug. 3 near Olgino Hotel, 4/2 Primorskogo Shosse.


The Peter and Paul Fortress will be turned into an open-air cinema today and tomorrow as part of the 5th International Short and Animation Film Festival. A huge screen across the fortress walls will air short films non-stop with board games, photo sessions and other activities also on offer for visitors. For more information, visit www.opencinemafest.ru



Saturday, Aug. 2


Gatchina Palace Park Museum will host its second annual Night of Light, an impressive audio-visual show across the night sky. Tickets are 600 rubles ($16).


If graphic design is more your thing then check out Illustration Day, where you will be able to visit an exhibition, attend lectures by professionals and even show experts some of your own work. The event starts at noon at Zona Deystvia, 73 Ligovsky Prospekt. The entrance fee is 350 rubles ($10).



Sunday, Aug. 3


History lovers shouldnt miss the chance to see reenactments of World War I battles in Pushkin at noon. Besides exciting war scenes, visitors can enjoy live music, historical costumes, an equestrian show and a fancy-dress parade starting from the Moscow gates.


Garage Sale, the popular and growing flea market where nothing is priced over 500 rubles ($14.11), starts today at noon in Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt. Be sure to get in early to score a bargain. Entry costs 50 rubles ($1.40)



Monday, Aug. 4


Continue the working week with a calm and steady mind with a free yoga lesson at 7 p.m. in the Bukvoyed store at 23A Vladimirsky Prospekt.



Tuesday, Aug. 5


Visit The Romanov Dynasty doll exhibition today, where more than fifty porcelain dolls depicting Russian rulers, and made by Olina Ventzel, will be on show. The exhibition continues through Aug. 31 in Sheremetyev Palace, 34 Fontanka Naberezhnaya.



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