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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

Saturday, July 26


Hundreds of brand-new and retro cars, drag and drift shows, test drives and karting are planned for the Avtobum-2014 festival, which will take place in front of the RIO shopping center at 2 Fuchika Ulitsa.


Participants in todays SaniDay Summer competition will impress visitors with their hand-made, unusual and hilarious boats, which will race at the Igora Resort near the 54th kilometer on Priozerskoe Shosse.


Metro Family Day will include both serious lectures for adults and master-classes for children, making the event interesting for the whole family. To participate, come to Kirov Park on Yelagin Island.


Photography will be the focus of todays Photosubbota, which features lectures by famous photographers, meetings with photo schools and studio representatives, and participation in a photography competition. The event starts at noon at Petrokongress, 5 Lodeynopolskaya Ulitsa.


If you like cycling, make sure to visit the Za Velogorod Festival with its retro bike exhibition, market and live music. The second round of the Leningrad Criterium race will also take place during the event at Petrovsky Arsenal in Sestroretsk.



Sunday, July 27


Navy Day will be celebrated with a weapon and military transportation exhibition, self-defense master classes and concerts. The event starts at 1 p.m. in the 300th Anniversary Park of St. Petersburg.



Monday, July 28


Dont miss a chance to see the latest achievements in robotics during the RoboDom interactive show, exhibiting more than 150 robots. The show will be at BUM center, 22/2 Gzhatskaya Ulitsa, until Aug. 3. The entrance ticket costs 350 rubles ($10).



Tuesday, July 29


A video of a Queen concert from 1986 will be shown today at 8 p.m. in Yaschik, 50/13 Ligovsky Prospekt.



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