Russia expects Obama visit despite "mini-crisis" in ties

Tue Dec 18, 2012 11:23am EST
 

By Alexei Anishchuk

MOSCOW (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama is likely to visit Russia in the first half of 2013 despite a "mini-crisis" in relations over U.S. moves to punish Russians accused of rights abuses, a Kremlin aide said on Tuesday.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin has been angered by the U.S. Congress passing the so-called Magnitsky Act which will bar entry to alleged Russian human rights violators and freeze any assets they hold in the United States.

Obama signed the legislation last week. But, signaling that the Kremlin does not want the spat to block efforts to improve relations, foreign policy aide Yury Ushakov said Putin stood by an invitation for the U.S. president to visit Russia.

"We reckon that Obama's visit could take place in the first half of next year," he told a news briefing.

The Russian parliament has given initial approval to a tit-for-tat law barring Americans accused of human rights violations from entering the country, and the "reset" in relations which Obama called for four years ago has not gone as well as hoped.

Lawmakers have also proposed banning adoption of Russian children by Americans, a move backed by Russia's Children's Rights Commissioner, Pavel Astakhov.

The proposal has upset Kremlin critics and human rights activists, and two government ministers called on Tuesday for restraint over such a move. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the ban would be wrong and Education Minister Dmitry Livanov criticized the idea on Twitter.

"The logic is like 'an eye for an eye', but the logic is wrong, as children could suffer harm if they cannot find adoptive parents in Russia," he said.   Continued...