* Russia calls bill an "insult," says will respond
* Measure goes to Senate, but no vote set
* Obama expected to sign final bill into law
By Doug Palmer
WASHINGTON, Nov 16 The U.S. House of
Representatives voted overwhelmingly on Friday to "name and
shame" Russian human rights violators as part of a broader bill
to drop Cold War-era trade restrictions, brushing off warnings
from Moscow that the move would damage relations.
The House voted 365-43 to approve the legislation, which
takes a jab at the policies of Russian President Vladimir Putin
while ensuring U.S. companies get the full benefits of Russia's
entry into the World Trade Organization on Aug. 22.
"Since Vladimir Putin was re-elected president in May 2012,
his government has taken a harsh and confrontational approach to
ongoing protests, cracking down on the Russian people's growing
discontent with corruption and creeping authoritarianism," said
Representative Jim McGovern, a Democrat.
The bill, which still needs Senate approval, would establish
"permanent normal trade relations," or PNTR, with Russia.
In a provision that infuriates Moscow, the bill would direct
President Barack Obama to publish the names of Russians believed
involved in the abuse and death of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian
anti-corruption lawyer who died in a Russian jail in 2009.
It also would require the United States to deny visas and
freeze the assets of any individual on the list, as well as
other human rights violators in Russia on an ongoing basis.
Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was in Washington to
witness the vote, which came on the third anniversary of
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ileana
Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican, said in statement that Nemtsov told
her that Putin had made stopping the legislation his utmost
priority because it threatened to ensnare those closest to the
Without PNTR, Russia could deny U.S. exporters some of the
market-opening benefits others will enjoy due to Russia's WTO
entry. The United States also could not use the WTO
dispute-settlement system to challenge Russian actions without
U.S. business groups believe PNTR could help them double or
triple exports to the world's ninth-largest economy.
"With our high unemployment, we cannot afford to pass up any
opportunity to increase our exports and create jobs," said House
Ways and Committee Chairman Dave Camp, a Republican.
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk called the vote an
important step toward making sure U.S. companies receive all the
benefits of Russia's WTO membership and are not left at a
competitive disadvantage to other suppliers.
"We look forward to action from the Senate that will send a
bill to the president," Kirk said.
Obama is expected to sign the bill if it reaches his desk,
even though the White House initially pressed for PNTR
legislation without the human rights sanctions provisions.
The Russian Foreign Ministry called House approval of the
legislation "an aggressively unfriendly, provocative insult" and
said "measures in response will certainly follow."
It urged Obama not to sign the bill, saying: "We hope the
American executive authorities understand the pernicious
consequences to which the legislative actions of ill-wishers and
opponents of our bilateral interaction may lead."
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said earlier on
Friday that Russia has already prepared its next steps but gave
no details. Other Russian officials have indicated that Moscow
would retaliate by imposing sanctions on U.S. officials it
accused of violating Russian citizens' rights.
They would be likely to include officials involved in
refusing a Russian request for the extradition of a convicted
arms trader, Viktor Bout, serving a 25-year prison term in the
Some Senate supporters of the bill are pressing for a
broader version that would allow the United States to impose
sanctions on human rights violators anywhere. Senate approval is
expected, but no date is set yet for action.
"I will continue to work in the Senate to get PNTR across
the finish line and onto the president's desk by the end of the
year," said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, a
Both the House bill and a similar one pending in the Senate
would allow the White House to keep secret the names of some
individuals on the Magnitsky list if the president determined
that was in the national security interest of the United States.
Magnitsky was jailed in 2008 on suspicion of tax evasion and
fraud, charges colleagues say were fabricated by Russian police
investigators he had accused of stealing $230 million from the
state through fraudulent tax refunds. The Kremlin's own human
rights council has said he was probably beaten to death.
U.S. farm and business groups welcomed the House vote, but
would have preferred a bill focused solely on trade.
They have been in a vulnerable position in the Russian
market since Russia's entry into the WTO in August because of a
U.S. Cold War-era provision called the Jackson-Vanik amendment
that is contrary to global trade rules.
The nearly 40-year-old measure tied the most favorable U.S.
tariff rates to emigration rights for Jews in the former Soviet
Union. WTO rules require normal trade relations on an
The House bill would lift the Jackson-Vanik amendment for
both Russia and Moldova, another former Soviet republic that has
been in the WTO for years.