Russia hits back at U.S. over rights legislation
By Steve Gutterman
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's parliament moved on Monday to bar entry to the country for Americans who violate the rights of Russians, retaliating against U.S. legislation passed last week to punish Russian human rights abusers.
The bill approved by the U.S. Senate on Thursday would deny entry to Russians allegedly involved in the 2009 prison death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who became a symbol of the abuse of Russians who challenge the state, and others accused of rights violations.
The U.S. legislation has further strained a relationship tested by the conflict in Syria and the treatment of Kremlin opponents since Vladimir Putin's return to the presidency in May.
The spat may make it harder for Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama to halt a downward drift in relations, which had improved after Obama launched a "reset" of ties in 2009.
But it looks unlikely to derail Russian assistance on Afghanistan, affect diplomacy aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear program or deepen disputes over the Syria conflict and U.S. missile defense.
Moscow had warned it would retaliate against what Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called an "anti-Russian escapade" by its former Cold War foe.
"The American initiators ... must understand that their actions contradict the tasks of deepening the collaboration between Russia and the United States," Lavrov said on Monday.
STRAINED RELATIONS Continued...