Russia retaliates against U.S. rights legislation

Fri Dec 14, 2012 1:59pm EST
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By Alissa de Carbonnel

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia moved closer on Friday to adopting a law barring entry to Americans who violate human rights, the same day U.S. President Barack Obama signed into law a rights-linked trade bill Moscow finds objectionable.

The tit-for-tat response came in a near-unanimous vote in the State Duma - the first of three votes before the bill goes to the upper house - hours before Obama signed the U.S. legislation into law.

The U.S. legislation is known as the Magnitsky Act after Sergei Magnitsky, an anti-corruption lawyer whose death in a Moscow jail in 2009 caused an international outcry.

It will require the United States to refuse visas for Russians accused of human rights violations and freeze any assets they hold in the United States.

Only two deputies in the 450-seat Duma voted against Russia's retaliatory bill, which would deny visas to Americans who violate the rights of Russians abroad, as well as seizing their assets and preventing them from doing business in Russia.

In debate peppered with belligerent speeches reminiscent of Cold War rhetoric, all four parties backed the bill - a rare display in a chamber where the Communists and Just Russia frequently vote against Kremlin-controlled United Russia.

"We will answer in kind," said Vladimir Vasiliyev, the senior lawmaker for United Russia, which holds a majority in the Duma. "The saddest thing is that ... the hawks (in the United States), Cold War hawks, have again won out."

"The Magnitsky Act is just an excuse to meddle in our internal affairs," said Just Russia deputy Alexander Tarnavsky.   Continued...

U.S. President Barack Obama (seated) signs H.R. 6156, the Russia and Moldova Jackson-Vanik Repeal and Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, December 14, 2012. REUTERS/Larry Downing