The House of Representatives of the US Congress approved a bill, which imposed visa and financial sanctions against Russian officials from the so-called the Magnitsky list. Along with this, the Jackson-Vanik amendment, which had been in effect since 1974, was cancelled. Meanwhile, the amendment was just of symbolic importance for a long time.
The debates preceded the voting on the Magnitsky Act in the House of Representatives, the Kommersant daily reported. Chairwoman of the House of Representatives Committee for Foreign Affairs Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was the first to take the floor. She stated that she opposes the granting to Russia of a status of a normal US trade partner, but she will vote for the cancellation of the amendment, because this is the only way to guarantee the approval of the Magnitsky Act. The newspaper recalled that the decision to link the bill on introducing “the regime of permanent normal trade relations with Russia” and the Magnitsky Act was taken by the US lawmakers last Thursday.
The bill approved by the US House of Representatives envisages the imposing of sanctions against Russian officials, who are more or less involved in the death of lawyer of the Hermitage Capital Foundation Sergei Magnitsky and the investigation into his death. The Russian officials put on the blacklist will be banned the entry in the United States, and the previously issued visas will be annulled, their accounts and property in the US will be arrested. The final reading of the bill also mentioned several other high-profile trials in Russia – the murder cases of Anna Politkovskaya, Paul Khlebnikov and Natalia Estemirova. The document holds that the Russian authorities are found in the administering of the biased justice and the unwillingness to conduct full-fledged investigations.
The Jackson-Vanik amendment was imposed against the Soviet Union in 1974 and linked the establishment of normal trading relations with Moscow with the problem of Jewish immigration. Formally the US Congress has not cancelled it yet, but it was just symbolic for a long time, as since 1989 Washington extended the moratorium on its effect against Russia every year.
The Kommersant daily recalled that Moscow has earlier warned repeatedly Washington that the approval of the Magnitsky Act will have a negative impact of bilateral relations. Last Friday Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov stated again that “the response will be tough, but not compulsorily symmetrical.”
The Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily noted that now the law is just to be endorsed in the US Senate and be signed by the president. In case of its enactment the law will spread not only on Russian officials, but also officials of other countries over human rights violations there.
The Russian Foreign Ministry called the approval of the Magnitsky Act as a challenging unfriendly and provocative act. Chairman of the Federation Council Committee for International Affairs Mikhail Margelov said in the comments to the newspaper that the Magnitsky Act is unfriendly towards Russia. “Such laws are approved by the lawmakers, who have a too high self-esteem in respect of human rights in their country,” Margelov stated.
The wordings of the law hamper to understand what the new law changed in bilateral relations and how it can affect them in the future, the Vedomosti daily said in an editorial article. The Jackson-Vanik amendment, which raised the duties on the imports from the Soviet Union tenfold, had actually not been in effect since 1989, when the moratorium on its effect was introduced. The amendment sooner remained a symbol of confrontation and the Cold War.
The newspaper reported that the Magnitsky Act is not targeted against the Russian state, if not to take a narrow circle of law enforcers, judges and officials in this way. Meanwhile, Moscow could have prevented the law from approving. For the last three years it can be found if one wish to, who did not help a 37-year-old dying man, who did not have health problems before the arrest, who misappropriated the funds allocated from the budget and punish those guilty. This did not happen.
The Vedomosti daily believes that the Magnitsky Act can stir up a brief exchange of mutual harsh statements, but will hardly result in a serious deterioration of bilateral relations. Probably, a tough response of the Russian Foreign Ministry and some deputies is caused by the concerns over a possible multiplying of the Magnitsky law in other countries, where Russian officials and businesspeople close to them are running a business, buying real estate and are sending their children for education.
The newspaper claimed that the British House of Commons, the Committee on International Affairs of the Canadian parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe are working out their Magnitsky lists.