December 7, 2012 | 13:57
Russia to retaliate against U.S. over visa, banking bans
MOSCOW -- Russia will ban Americans who violated human rights from entering Russia, as a response to the U.S. Senate’s decision to approve the "Magnitsky Act”.
The U.S. Senate decided to impose visa and banking bans on Russian officials suspected of involvement in human rights violations.
“After (last night’s) meeting with (U.S. Secretary of State) Hillary Clinton in Dublin, I confirmed that we will also close entry to Americans who are guilty of human rights violations," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
The U.S. Senate on Thursday passed the Magnitsky Act that envisages visa and banking bans on Russian officials suspected of involvement in the death of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in 2009. The adoption of the bill enraged Moscow that promised it would respond adequately.
A Russian parliament official has stated that sanctions could be imposed on U.S. officials suspected of violating human rights in Afghanistan, Iraq and other places around the world.
37-year-old Magnitsky died in prison on November 16, 2009. According to official medical reports, the cause of death was heart failure.
The Human Rights Council has however released that the lawyer was beaten to death.
Magnitsky was arrested in 2008 on suspicion of tax evasion and fraud worth USD 230mn. Certain Russian NGOs say that Magnitsky agreed to reveal the whole network of corrupt bankers, tax administration employees and state officials to investigators.
According to the Magnitsky Act, which is yet to be approved by U.S. President Barack Obama, individuals involved in the lawyer’s death and those responsible for violation of human rights in Russia will not be able to get U.S. visas and their assets can be frozen.
Clinton warned in Dublin on Thursday of new attempts of repressive governments to “re-Sovietize" much of Eastern Europe and Central Asia taking particular aim at Russia for its crackdown on democracy and human rights groups just hours ahead of critical talks with Lavrov.
Speaking to a group of lawyers and civil society advocates on the sidelines of an international human rights conference, Clinton took aim at what she described as a “new wave of repressive tactics and laws aimed at criminalizing U.S. outreach efforts in the field of human rights”.
“The trends are indicative of a larger reversal of freedoms for citizens of Russia, Belarus, Turkmenistan and other countries that emerged from the breakup of the Soviet Union two decades ago,” she said.
"We know what the goal is and we are trying to figure out effective ways to slow down or prevent it," Clinton added.
In her speech at the OSCE ministerial conference, Clinton expressed concern over a new Russian bill requesting foreign-funded organizations and journalists to be registered as “foreign agents”.
The U.S. believes that the law is aimed at preventing criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin.