Experts differ on Russia’s likely response to US move to expand Magnitskiy list

Memorial Flowers and Photo of Sergei Magnitsky

(Interfax – July 12, 2013) Aleksey Pushkov, chairman of the State Duma International Affairs Committee, has warned against “whipping up” tension in relations between Russia and the USA, commenting on reports that Washington is planning to expand the Magnitskiy list after a court in Moscow found the late lawyer, Sergey Magnitskiy, and the head of the Hermitage Capital Management fund, William Browder, guilty of tax evasion.

“The Magnitskiy Act passed by the USA has already damaged bilateral relations between Russia and the USA. Now the job of both sides is to minimize the damage caused by this aggressive bill rather than to whip up new tension on its basis,” Pushkov said, as reported by his press service.

If the USA embarks on further aggravating relations by expanding the blacklist, Russia, as before, can provide a mirror response, the MP said. “I don’t think though that political confrontation with Moscow is in the US interests. One would like to hope that the Congress and the Obama Administration realize this,” Pushkov said.

According to Masha Lipman, a senior associate with the Carnegie Moscow Centre, it is just political bravado on the part of the US Administration.

“Any country, including our country, can refuse entry to anyone”, she said. “So, there is no need to pass a law in order for people on the Magnitskiy list or any other people to be denied entry to a country,” Lipman told Russian business channel RBK TV.

Another political expert told RBK TV that the timing of the proposal to expand the Magnitskiy list – when “relations between Moscow and Washington are not easy anyway” – was “very unfortunate” for President Obama.

“The White House will keep silent on the issue as long as possible, dragging the time, as essentially was the case when the first version of the Magnitskiy list was passed,” Aleksey Fenenko, a leading researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute for Problems of International Security, said.

Leonid Kalashnikov, first deputy chairman of the State Duma International Affairs Committee, described the decision to expand the Magnitskiy list as “political games”.

“This does not mean that, suddenly, tomorrow, as a result of an investigation, there will appear new figures and new names. All these are political games that are to do, first and foremost, with the appointment of (US State Department spokesperson) Victoria Nuland (as an assistant secretary of state),” Kalashnikov told editorially independent Ekho Moskvy radio.

According to Kalashnikov, there will be no “symmetrical response” from Russia. “It is unlikely that our response will be symmetrical. Decisions will concern specific names, most likely those concerned will be refused visas. It won’t be possible to give a symmetrical response because some decisions will be confidential,” he explained.

“Any country has the right to refuse visas to undesirable persons,” he added.