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Russia Warns U.S. Over Magnitsky Bill Response

RIA Novosti

15:04 27/06/2012

MOSCOW, June 27 (RIA Novosti) - Russia called on the United States on Wednesday to weigh the possible consequences of approving a bill penalizing Russian officials for human rights abuses.

"[They have] an opportunity to weigh the consequences after all, so we urge our U.S. partners and U.S. lawmakers to do just that," Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters in Moscow.

It was, however, "too early" to describe what action Russia will take in response, Ryabkov said.

The comments come after the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously passed the "Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act," named after a Russian lawyer who died in prison in 2009.

The bill would impose a travel ban and asset freeze on Russian officials linked to Magnitsky's jailing and death, as well as other human rights abusers in Russia.

Pro-Kremlin parliamentarian Vyacheslav Nikonov suggested Russia should introduce a Guantanamo list or Viktor Bout list, referring to U.S. officials linked to the alleged abuse suffered by inmates at the Guantanamo Bay prison or the jailing of the convicted Russian arms dealer.

Magnitsky, who worked for a British investment fund, was detained in November 2008 after accusing officials of a $230 million tax fraud. He died in his cell after deliberate neglect and beatings, the Kremlin's human rights body said in a report last year.

The United States and Netherlands imposed travel bans on some 60 Russian officials over the Magnitsky case in July 2011.

Russia has responded in kind, but neither country is believed to have actually implemented the bans so far.

The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, however, have been reluctant to support the Magnitsky bill, which prompted a number of U.S. Senators to threaten not to vote for the repeal of the Cold War-era Jackson-Vanik amendment, which restricts trade relations with Russia, unless the bill is attached.

President Obama's national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, said last week the administration "would like to see [the Jackson-Vanik amendment] done separately."


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