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MOSCOW, January 19, 11:16 /ITAR-TASS/. Washington’s making the Magnitsky Act, blacklisting Russian officials accused of human rights violations, a universal document will exert a negative influence on the United States’ relations with other countries, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s commissioner for human rights, democracy and the rule of law Konstantin Dolgov said on Saturday.
In his comments on the U.S. Congress work on a bill enlarging the list of countries to be encompassed by the Magnitsky Act, he said this initiative did not meet Washington’s interests. “If some U.S. legislators want to spread this vicious practice on other countries, if these ideas are revived, I think, the U.S. will face negative consequences in its relations with a whole range of countries,” Dolgov said.
“I do not think that this step is in the interests of the United States,” he said, recalling that initially, U.S. legislators planned to make this act universal. “But, probably, the U.S. legislative and executive authorities know better what the United States’ interests are.” “Until this initiative is not signed into law, I think, it is in the interests of the United States to keep it as it is. It will be interesting to see what position the U.S. administration will take on this issue.”
At the same time Dolgov warned that Moscow would reply symmetrically to a possible enlargement of the list of Russian government officials to be subjected to U.S. sanctions under the Magnitsky Act.
Russia’s attitude towards this legislation “is well known” and “has not changed,” the diplomat said, adding that from Russia’s point of view, this act was “politicised from start to finish.”
He recalled that the unilateral punitive measures used by the United States against some Russian officials last year “were met with an appropriate, calm and symmetrical reaction from Russia.”
“And that’s how it will continue to be if the American side takes additional steps,” Dolgov warned, describing possible new such steps by the American authorities as unlawful.
The Magnitsky Act was adopted by the U.S. Congress and signed by President Barack Obama in December 12. It backlists Russian officials on the suspicion of human rights abuse and corruption, banning their entry to the United States and freezing their bank accounts, if they have such in the U.S.
President Barack Obama’s key foreign policy adviser, Ben Rhodes, said in an excusive interview with Itar-Tass in late December the U.S. administration decided to avoid expanding its Magnitsky blacklist of Russian officials. However, on January 17, a group of influential lawmakers had called for enlarging the Magnitsky list.
The Magnitsky list is named after Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer of Hermitage Capital Management investment fund, who was reportedly investigating corruption among some high-ranking Russian officials.
Magnitsky, 37, was charged with assisting in tax evasion. He died at the intensive care unit of Moscow’s Matrosskaya Tishina prison on November 16, 2009, eleven months after he was taken into custody and seven days after he was indicted.