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Putin says Magnitsky Act issue used to fan anti-Russian hysteria

The issue has a plainly criminal background, the Russian leader said

SOCHI, October 19./TASS/. The Magnitsky Act issue is used by the West for whipping up a new round of anti-Russian hysteria, though the issue has a plainly criminal background, Russian President Vladimir Putin told a session of Valdai International Discussion Club.

"The issue is simply used for fanning anew anti-Russian hysteria," the president said in reply to the question whether he was concerned about the fact that Canada had joined the Magnitsky Act and many other countries had stated readiness to support that law.

Nobody wants to see what is underlying this problem, Putin said. "It has a plainly criminal background - cheating and theft," the president noted.

The Magnitsky Act was initiated by Democratic Senator Benjamin Cardin and Democratic Congressman James McGovern, also a Democrat. In November 2012 it was signed into law by the US president.

The law was named after Sergey Magnitsky, an auditor working for Hermitage Capital Management, a British investment fund, who was arrested on charge of creating illegal tax evasion schemes for the fund. While under investigation, Magnitsky accused a number of Russian officials of corruption. In November 2009, he died in the Matrosskaya Tishina pre-trial detention center in Moscow, as stated by representatives of Hermitage Capital, after being denied essential medical care.

The law envisages sanctions against a number of Russian officials, including employees of law enforcement agencies, whom Washington holds responsible for the death of Magnitsky. Besides, it imposes unilateral US sanctions on Russian officials, who, according to the US authorities are responsible for human rights abuse in their home country. The sanctions range from refusal to issue US entry visas to the freeze on financial assets within the US jurisdiction.

The Canadian parliament approved the law on October 4. The bill particularly allowed the government to freeze assets and ban visas for officials from Russia and other nations considered guilty of human rights violations. On October 18, the law was signed by Governor-General of Canada Julie Payette.