Russia will take retaliatory measures if the United States replaces the Soviet-era Jackson-Vanik amendment hampering Russian-U.S. trade with new “anti-Russian laws” related to the death of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian presidential aide said on Tuesday.
“If the new anti-Russian Magnitsky bill is passed, it would require some response measure from us,” Yury Ushakov said, adding that Moscow hoped it would not happen.
A group of influential U.S. senators, including former Republican presidential candidate John McCain, proposed in mid-March introducing a blacklist of Russian officials allegedly linked to the Hermitage Capital lawyer, Magnitsky’s death in a Moscow pre-trial detention center in November 2009, in exchange for the cancellation of the Jackson-Vanik amendment.
The Jackson-Vanik amendment, passed in 1974, barred favorable trade relations with the Soviet Union because it wouldn’t let Jewish citizens emigrate. It has been defunct for the past two decades, and both Moscow and Washington have warned that, if not repealed, it would be an obstacle to productive U.S.-Russian trade relations when Russia enters the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Magnitsky was arrested on tax evasion charges in November 2008, just days after accusing police investigators in a $230 million tax refund fraud, and died after almost a year in the Matrosskaya Tishina pre-trial detention center in Moscow.
Ushakov also said that it will be U.S. companies who would lose if the amendment remained in force.
The U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul who held a meeting with students of the Higher School of Economics on May 25, said that he personally was involved into making up the Magnitsky list while working in the administration of the U.S. President Barack Obama.