Bloomberg News

Russia to Retaliate Against U.S. Rights Sanctions With Visa Ban

December 10, 2012

Russia plans to retaliate against U.S. legislation targeting human-rights offenders in Russia by barring travel by Americans who commit crimes against Russian citizens or violate their rights.

A draft law submitted today with cross-party support to the Russian lower house of parliament will also bar investments and freeze assets in Russia of these individuals, according to a document published on the Duma’s website.

The U.S. Senate on Dec. 6 approved a bipartisan bill that imposes a visa ban and asset freeze on officials implicated in the death of tax attorney Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow jail and others guilty of rights violations including torture and murder.

Russia has condemned the legislation and repeatedly warned it will damage ties between the two countries. Tensions are already growing after President Vladimir Putin, who faced unprecedented protests in 2011 and earlier this year, criticized the administration of his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama over its efforts to promote democracy in Russia and a bid to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Russia said in June it had barred 11 serving and former U.S. administration officials for human rights abuses at facilities including Guantanamo Bay and the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The ban on entry to Russia was enacted last year in retaliation for a U.S. visa ban for 11 Russian officials accused of playing a role in the death of Magnitsky.

Most Corrupt

Russia ranks as the most corrupt nation among the Group of 20 advanced economies in Berlin-based Transparency International’s 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index. The jailing of businessmen such as Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former billionaire owner of Yukos Oil Co. arrested in 2003, is a touchstone for investors concerned about the independence of Russia’s judiciary.

Magnitsky, an attorney for London-based Hermitage Capital, alleged a $230 million tax fraud by Russian officials. He died at age 37 in November 2009 after being beaten to death and denied medical care during almost a year in pre-trial detention on fabricated tax evasion charges, according to a Russian presidential human rights body.

Bill Browder, head of Hermitage Capital, identified 60 Russian officials responsible for Magnitsky’s prosecution and death and the tax fraud that he uncovered.

Similar legislation may now be approved in a number of European Union countries including the Netherlands and the U.K., Jamison Firestone, co-founder of the law firm Firestone Duncan and a former colleague of Magnitsky, said in an interview in London Dec. 3.

The bill is H.R. 6156.

To contact the reporters on this story: Henry Meyer in Moscow at hmeyer4@bloomberg.net; Ilya Arkhipov in Moscow at iarkhipov@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at bpenz@bloomberg.net


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