Russia's Lavrov warns U.S. over human rights law: agency

MOSCOW Sat Jun 30, 2012 7:42am EDT

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (R) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov leave a meeting in St. Petersburg June 29, 2012. REUTERS/Haraz N. Ghanbari/Pool

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (R) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov leave a meeting in St. Petersburg June 29, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Haraz N. Ghanbari/Pool

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia has warned the United States that their relations would suffer "serious damage" if Washington adopts a bill to penalize Russian officials for human rights abuses, a state news agency reported on Saturday.

Itar-Tass said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stressed to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at talks on Friday in St Petersburg that "the possible endorsement in the United States of the 'Magnitsky law' will bring serious damage to relations between our countries."

The Russian Foreign Ministry had no comment on the report.

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week passed the "Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act", named after a Russian anti-corruption lawyer whose death in 2009 while in pre-trial detention drew widespread condemnation.

The bill would deny visas and freeze the assets of Russians suspected of involvement in his death.

Despite broad support in Congress, the bill's future remains uncertain, partly because the U.S. administration is unenthusiastic about a measure that Russia says would be an unwarranted intrusion into its internal affairs.

The passing of the bill has added to tension between the White House and the Kremlin over international engagement in Syria, among others. (Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska, editing by Diana Abdallah)

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