Magnitsky Act a Mystery for Most Russians – Pollster

MOSCOW, December 24 (RIA Novosti) – It may have triggered a furious reaction from Russian lawmakers and the media here, but the vast majority of Russians know very little about the so-called Magnitsky Act, an opinion poll has found.

The Magnitsky Act, which introduces US visas bans and other sanctions for Russian officials suspected of human rights abuses, was signed into law by US President Barack Obama earlier this month. Russian lawmakers last week adopted in its crucial third hearing a tit-for-tat bill that would also see an additional ban on US nationals adopting Russian children.

The act was named after Sergei Magnitsky, who is alleged to have been beaten to death in a Moscow pre-trial detention center in 2009. Magnitsky was jailed on tax evasion charges after exposing what he said was massive fraud by Russian officials. No one has yet been charged with his death.

But despite the furor, only twelve percent of Russians were able to say correctly what the act was and only six percent knew who Sergei Magnitsky was, the head of the VTsIOM pollster, Valery Fedorov, told journalists on Monday, citing a poll released on Friday.

He also said that 44 percent know about the Magnitsky Act, but were unable to say what it was. Fifty-three percent said the act would harm relations with the United States.

President Vladimir Putin said last week he supported the State Duma initiative on an adoption ban, but has yet to sign the bill into law.

“It’s an emotional, but adequate response,” Putin said on Thursday.

State Duma lawmakers said the bill was a response to what they called the inaction of US officials over the deaths of 19 Russian children adopted by Americans since 1999. Over 45,000 Russian children, including 962 last year, have been adopted by US families in that period, according to the US State Department.

The adoption ban proposal has drawn a furious reaction from human rights groups and a number of people were detained in Moscow last week as they protested against the bill outside parliament.

Russian experts expressed concern on Monday that the State Duma’s decision to push for a US adoption ban could badly harm Moscow’s global image.

“The United States is serious about discrediting the Russian political establishment,” said analyst Alexei Mukhin, of the Moscow-based Center for Political Information. “And, I have to say, the Russian political establishment is actively helping with this.”

“The damage to [Russia’s] image will be very great,” he added.

Other experts suggested the adoption ban could cause domestic problems, as well.

“This is a serious mistake, because it has, in essence, kicked up a storm in society,” said analyst Evgeny Minchenko.


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