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Iron curtain

Magnitsky list to be passed this week in US Congress

12.11.12 14:18    By Olga Kuzmenkova, edited by Robert Gally

Magnitsky list to be passed this week in US Congress

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The U.S. House of Representatives may approve the controversial Magnitsky Act bill this week. President Obama is expected to sign the document by Christmas. Washington is aware the Russian authorities intentions of responding with their own list, but consider these plans ridiculous, a senior source in the Congress told Gazeta.ru.

According to the source, the bill will most likely be passed by the end of the week, possibly on the third anniversary of Magnitsky's death. Magnitsky, a lawyer, died in jail on November 16, 2009.

"After the House, the bill still has to pass through the Senate, and only then can the president sign the bill," the source continued. "The President's signature is rather a formality: the president is planning to sign it. How much time will it take? A couple of days, or as long as necessary to send the bill from the Senate to the President, does not matter. "

According to the source, the bill will be approved by the Senate around Thanksgiving (November 22), or in early December. "We can say for sure say the chances that the President will sign the bill before Christmas are very high," he added. "I would say that the probability is 80-90%, or in any case, much higher than 50%."

In a conversation with Gazeta.ru, the Congressional source said that ordinary Russian citizens should not fear the Magnitsky Act because it does not impose extensive sanctions and does not close off the U.S. market. The text of the document refers only to those who are guilty of human rights violations in Russia. The source believes the law should be considered more of a "pro-Russian" law.

After the adoption of the law in the "Magnitsky list" will be new names. "In Russia, perhaps, not very well understood that this law goes far beyond the case itself Magnitsky. Magnitsky case - yes, of course, but the text is the phrase "or other serious violations of human rights ... It will all be one list, and it will be updated periodically, "- said the official.

Among the possible future names on the "Magnitsky List" the Congressional source cited persons involved in the death of "Memorial" human rights activist Natalya Estemirova and other crimes in the North Caucasus. In addition, Gazetaru was told that the list may include people involved in the kidnapping and torture of "Left Front" activist Leonid Razvozzhaeva, as well as those involved in the killing of journalist Oleg Kashin.

Only one Russian government representative is on the list: the President of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov. In addition, anxious administration officials who follow Russia's actions have put the head of the Federal Investigative Committee, Alexander Bastrykin, on the list. Bastrykin previously attracted Washington's attention by refusing to cooperate with foreign partners [for example, the Alexander Litvinenko case, who was poisoned in London with polonium]. Gazeta.ru's source said the last straw for Bastrykin was the case of the deputy chief editor of "Novaya Gazeta" Sergei Sokolov, who Bastrykin probably brought into the forest and threatened with murder. The source stressed that, names will appear on the Magnitsky List, only of persons directly involved in gross violations of human rights such as kidnapping, torture, beatings, killings, imprisonment.

The source also made it clear that those deputies who helped pass a recent series of repressive laws against rallies, NGOs and slander, will probably be safe from the list.

The Magnitsky Act may negatively affect Russian-US relations. Moscow has repeatedly said it was preparing an answering list: both President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have mentioned it. The source said that Washington is familiar with these statements, but finds it difficult to imagine how such lists could be equalising. "From our perspective, it's interesting, because we identify serious human rights violators, publicly announce their names, do not allow them to enter the U.S. and freeze their assets, or if their assets are not in the US, forbid them access to our financial system. It is somewhat difficult to imagine a plausible, serious balanced response to this, " the source stressed.

The congressional official suggested that the Russian side, in response, is likely to name names of the people involved in the extradition and trial of Viktor Bout, accused of illegal arms dealing, or a pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, who is charged with drug trafficking. In addition, Gazeta.ru's source admitted that sanctions will be taken against members of Congress who vote in favour of the Magnitsky Act. The source said that such a move is "pretty ridiculous", adding that "these U.S. citizens do not travel to Russia, and are certainly unlikely to have accounts in Russian banks…. If this is done in public, then I think that the Russian government will be exposed to ridicule in Russia itself, and at an international level," he added. "Compared to Sergei Magnitsky, Victor Bout is simply not serious. Oh, please ... It's absurd."

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