Medvedev says Magnitsky fallout not bad for Russian business

Sat Jan 26, 2013 2:46pm EST
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By Steve Gutterman

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev used a prime-time TV interview on Saturday to dismiss concerns growing fallout from the 2009 death of anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky would damage Russia's business interests.

Medvedev said the whistleblower's death in jail, for which no one has been brought to justice, was being used by Kremlin critics to score points but was of no import to business leaders.

The assurances seemed to contradict concerns aired by members of Russia's business elite this week on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where Medvedev was Moscow's top representative.

The United States adopted legislation last month called he Magnitsky Act, which bars entry to Russians accused of involvement in his death or other grave human rights abuses and freezes any U.S. assets they hold.

"It does not interest anyone, except maybe certain citizens who are trying to use it to accumulate political capital," said Medvedev, who was president from 2008 until Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin last May.

"Not a single businessman raises this issue," he told state television in an interview focusing on his role in the forum. "But unfortunately it has become a factor in political life."

Russia responded to the U.S. legislation by imposing similar measures against Americans accused of violating rights of Russians and also banning adoption of Russian children by Americans, adding tension to ties already strained since Putin's Kremlin return.

Magnitsky was 37 when he died after nearly a year in pre-trial custody on tax evasion changes. He said he was denied proper medical care and members of Medvedev's own human rights council said he was probably beaten to death.   Continued...

Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev speaks during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos January 24, 2013. REUTERS/Pascal Lauener