Russian Officials Weigh Responses to Magnitsky Act

MOSCOW, December 6 (RIA Novosti) – The US Senate’s adoption Thursday of the Magnitsky Act, which introduces sanctions for Russian officials deemed to have violated human rights, appears certain to provoke a response from Moscow, where lawmakers have been considering possible countermeasures.

“If the US gives the go-ahead to this law, we will not remain inactive and will give an answer,” Vladimir Burmatov, a State Duma deputy with the ruling United Russia party, told RIA Novosti.

The Kremlin vowed last month a “tough” response to the law, which would impose visa bans and asset freezes on Russian officials allegedly involved in the 2009 death in jail of a 37-year-old Russian anti-corruption lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, as well as in other gross human rights abuses.

Moscow reiterated its stance Wednesday, dubbing the US Senate’s likely approval of the law “unfriendly and provocative.”

Russian officials have called Magnitsky’s death a tragedy, but say foreign governments have no business interfering with the investigation into the case. None of the key individuals accused by Magnitsky’s employer, American-born British investor Bill Browder, of involvement in the lawyer’s death have been charged.

United Russia has proposed responding to the adoption of the Magnitsky Act by banning entry to Russia for US officials suspected of human rights abuses at the controversial US Guantanamo Bay prison used to house terrorist suspects.

The proposed measure has been backed by leading figures from the other three parliamentary parties in Russia’s State Duma.

“We should ask ourselves – is everything in order with human rights in the US?” said Sergei Mironov, leader of A Just Russia, who added that drawing up a “Guantanamo list” would present no difficulties. “There are problems there, of course.”

“There are [US] officials who have been seen to be involved in, to put it bluntly, some pretty bad things,” he went on.

Earlier this year, in addition to the proposed Guantanamo list, pro-Kremlin lawmaker Vyacheslav Nikonov suggested a Viktor Bout list, referring to US officials linked to the jailing of the convicted Russian arms dealer.

The first deputy head of the Liberal Democratic Party, Vladimir Ovsyannikov, has said any Russian register of US officials suspected of human rights abuses would be “much longer” than the Magnitsky list.

“The list should include those people who are committing serious human rights violations in the United States,” he said.

Communist Party deputy leader Ivan Melnikov proposed that Russia’s response should include boosting ties with “Cuba, as well as countries in Asia and the Arab world” to counter what he said was US hegemony of global affairs.

A recent editorial in the respected Vedomosti daily noted that prosecutors’ decision to reopen the case against Magnitsky posthumously may be, in part, a response to the new US legislation.

However, United Russia’s proposed counter-list has also found unexpected support among the leaders of the year-long protests against the rule of President Vladimir Putin.

“I see nothing at all wrong in this,” said Yevgenia Chirikova, a protest leader who has been a vocal supporter of the proposed Magnitsky Act. “I welcome any move that helps fight against repression and corrupt officials.”

“After all,” she went on, “No one is making out everything to be perfect in the United States.”


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