NEWSLINK: Russia threatens tough response if U.S. back rights bill

Memorial Flowers and Photo of Sergei Magnitsky

(Russia threatens tough response if US back rights bill – Reuters – Steve Gutterman – November 15 – http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/15/russia-usa-idUSL5E8MFA6K20121115)

Leading up to House consideration of Congressional legislation impacting trade relations with Russia, and sanctions over human rights issues, Reuters covers Russian warnings:

Russia warned the United States on Thursday to expect a tough response if Congress passes “unfriendly and provocative” legislation designed to punish Russian officials for human rights violations.

The Foreign Ministry said U.S.-Russian ties were sure to suffer if lawmakers back a move directing the U.S. government to deny visas to Russian officials involved in the detention, abuse or death of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer who died in jail in 2009.

“Such a step will unavoidably have a negative effect on the whole range of Russian-U.S. relations,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told a news briefing.

File Photo of U.S. Capitol Dome

file photo

While Congress addresses the establishment of permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) in the aftermath of Russian accession to the World Trade Organization, including the lifting the Jackson-Vanik amendment, the desire is to replace Jackson-Vanik with the Magnitsky bill:

The amendment is outdated, but U.S. lawmakers are reluctant to remove it without passing legislation to keep pressure on Moscow over their human rights concerns, which have deepened since Putin returned to the presidency in May.

The U.S. House of Representatives was expected to vote on Friday on a package that would combine the PNTR bill with the Magnitsky legislation.

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Magnitsky was jailed in 2008 on suspicion of tax evasion and fraud, charges colleagues say were fabricated by 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.

Obama’s administration says it understands concerns over rights abuses but that the bill, being pushed by lawmakers, is redundant because Washington has already imposed visa restrictions on some Russians thought to have been involved in Magnitsky’s death. It has not disclosed their names.

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