Russia hits back at U.S. over rights legislation

MOSCOW Mon Dec 10, 2012 10:20am EST

File photo of friends and relatives following the coffin of Sergei Magnitsky during his funeral at a cemetery in Moscow November 20, 2009. REUTERS/Mikhail Voskresensky (RUSSIA CRIME LAW POLITICS)

File photo of friends and relatives following the coffin of Sergei Magnitsky during his funeral at a cemetery in Moscow November 20, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Mikhail Voskresensky (RUSSIA CRIME LAW POLITICS)

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's parliament moved on Monday to bar entry to the country for Americans who violate the rights of Russians, retaliating against U.S. legislation passed last week to punish Russian human rights abusers.

The bill approved by the U.S. Senate on Thursday would deny entry to Russians allegedly involved in the 2009 prison death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who became a symbol of the abuse of Russians who challenge the state, and others accused of rights violations.

The U.S. legislation has further strained a relationship tested by the conflict in Syria and the treatment of Kremlin opponents since Vladimir Putin's return to the presidency in May.

The spat may make it harder for Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama to halt a downward drift in relations, which had improved after Obama launched a "reset" of ties in 2009.

But it looks unlikely to derail Russian assistance on Afghanistan, affect diplomacy aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear program or deepen disputes over the Syria conflict and U.S. missile defense.

Moscow had warned it would retaliate against what Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called an "anti-Russian escapade" by its former Cold War foe.

"The American initiators ... must understand that their actions contradict the tasks of deepening the collaboration between Russia and the United States," Lavrov said on Monday.

STRAINED RELATIONS

In a display of unity rare even for Russia's parliament - in which Putin's dominant party faces little opposition - all four parties in the State Duma (lower house) backed the legislation.

The bill, which both houses of parliament are likely to rush through by year-end, would deny entry visas to Americans involved in committing unspecified crimes against Russians abroad or violating their rights.

Mirroring the U.S. "Magnitsky Act" legislation, which Obama has said he will sign into law, the Russian bill would also freeze any Russian assets of those affected.

Americans affected by the bill could include those involved in the prosecution of Viktor Bout, a Russian arms trader serving a 25-year prison term in the United States after an arrest and trial condemned as unfair by Moscow.

Russian media said others barred from Russia could include people involved in the abuse of Russian children adopted by Americans. Russia says U.S. courts and authorities have been too lenient toward parents accused of sometimes grievous abuse.

Russia has warned it could respond with other unspecified measures. But it denied any connection between the Magnitsky Act and the announcement on Friday of restrictions on meat imports from several countries including the United States.

Putin, in power since 2000, has repeatedly said the United States has no right to claim a mantle of moral leadership, and Moscow has criticized Washington sharply over human rights, pointing to secret CIA jails abroad and treatment of inmates at the Guantanamo Bay facility in Cuba and elsewhere.

Yet Putin may want to limit the damage from the dispute and is unlikely to let it affect efforts to strengthen economic and trade relations with the United States.

The Senate approved the Magnitsky Act as part of a broader bill to grant Russia "permanent normal trade relations" (PNTR), which ensures U.S. companies can get the benefits of Russia's entry in August to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

(Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)

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Comments (6)
leesik wrote:
Why does the press continue to emphasize the “reset” policy as if it had some merit, or even success? It had neither. It was a complete and utter failure. It ranks in the same policy failure as Obama talking with the Iranians. What happens when Ahmadinejad doesn’t want to talk with you? Or when Russia sees the “reset” something they are not interested in?

Putin runs a thugocracy. He has no intention of changing anything. As the chief thug intimidation, extortion and outright theft are the major tools in his bag. He has fulfilled Gorbachev’s dream of perestroika – restructuring the state apparatus. Now instead of the Communist party controlling everything we have Единая Россия.

It would be nice to see western press wake up from their self-delusion about Putin sharing some sort of common western values. He has one value and one only – POWER!

Dec 10, 2012 10:17am EST  --  Report as abuse
paintcan wrote:
@leesik – But the US is pursuing dreams of exporting democratic values the way Napoleon claimed he was fostering the aims of the French Revolution.

You are nobody without power, sad to say. Power is the one thing every country wants and all are ashamed to admit. It’s not a pretty picture.

Oppenheimer thought he was dancing with Shiva Natraj after the first detonation of the atomic bomb at the Alamogordo testing range.

If these men keep it up, we may all be dancing with Shiva before too long. It would be something if all countries woke up to their “self delusions” regarding a great many things, but if they did. they might not want to get out of bed in the morning.

Dec 10, 2012 12:57pm EST  --  Report as abuse
RandomMoto wrote:
Really, we need to lay off the “human rights” high horse until we have our own house in order and stop making excuses for our own abuses. Isn’t America the “Christian” nation? How about “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

Dec 10, 2012 2:27pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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