Russia is warning the United States in connection with the possible adoption of a bill designed to punish Russian officials implicated in human rights abuses.
The legislation, known as the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, would freeze American bank accounts and deny U.S. visas to corrupt officials and human rights violators.
The Kremlin sees the law as aimed at Russia. Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian anti-corruption lawyer, uncovered a $230-million tax fraud, allegedly by government officials, but was jailed after being accused of systematic theft. He died in a Moscow pretrial detention center in November 2009 after spending nearly a year behind bars.
The U.S. law would deny visas to Russian officials suspected of covering up Magnitsky's death.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich says the bill will have a negative effect on the whole of Russia-U.S. relations.
“We, of course, will not leave without consequences this essentially anti-Russian initiative of enforcing visa and financial sanctions against our country to coincide with the abolishment of the Jackson-Vanik amendment. We will have to react, and react toughly, depending on the final version of this unfriendly, provocative act.''
U.S. lawmakers are expected to vote in the coming days on a package combining the Magnitsky Act with a bill that would grant Russia permanent normal trade relations. Establishing such relations requires that lawmakers lift the 1974 Jackson-Vanik amendment, a Cold War relic that would result in higher tariffs for American exports to Russia.
The Jackson-Vanik amendment ties favorable U.S. tariffs on Russian goods to the rights of Soviet Jews. The amendment is outdated, but U.S. lawmakers are reluctant to repeal it without passing legislation to keep pressure on Moscow over human rights concerns.