MOSCOW, December 13 (RIA Novosti) – Russian President Vladimir Putin blasted a US bill targeting alleged Russian human rights violators as an “unfriendly act,” but said Russia’s response should be “adequate and not excessive.”
“We certainly have to have an appropriate response. The State Duma has taken the initiative, which in my opinion is absolutely correct. But we need to make sure the decisions we take are adequate and not excessive,” Putin said at a meeting of the Federal Assembly’s Council of Lawmakers.
Under the Russian bill, introduced by the lower house of parliament Monday, alleged US rights abusers, including people implicated in the abuse of adopted Russian children, will be banned from entering Russia and have their assets in Russia seized.
The bill mirrors a US draft law named for whistleblowing lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Moscow jail three years ago.
Magnitsky was arrested on tax fraud charges after accusing a group of Russian officials of embezzling $230 million of state money. He died after 11 months in pretrial detention. His death was officially blamed on his health problems, but the Kremlin’s own human rights council said in 2011 that he was severely beaten hours before dying, and Magnitsky’s supporters claim the case against him was fabricated in revenge for his exposes.
No officials have been prosecuted so far over Magnitsky’s death.
Magnitsky himself faces posthumous prosecution by the Russian authorities on tax fraud allegations.
The US Magnitsky Act, which was bundled with landmark legislation normalizing trade relations with Moscow, targets Russian officials implicated in his death with visa bans and asset freezes.
The bill has already been approved by both houses of US Congress. President Barack Obama said last week he would sign the bill into law.
Putin on Thursday criticized the US bill as a “purely political, unfriendly act.”
The Russian president expressed regret over Magnitsky’s death but said the investigation is ongoing and it is “still unclear who is right and who is wrong.”
“Frankly speaking, I don’t understand. This is most likely a domestic political intrigue. But I don’t understand why Russian-US relations should be sacrificed for some domestic political gain,” Putin said.