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Moscow warns Obama about Magnitsky law

This week the U. S. Senate will consider the Magnitsky Act, a bill to ban visas and freeze bank accounts of about 60 Russian officials allegedly involved in the arrest and death of Sergei Magnitsky.

President Barack Obama is expected to sign a version into law by the end of the year.

“If this is supported by the executive branch, Russia will not leave it unanswered,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told reporters in Moscow. “We will have to respond — and our response will be tough.”

The U.S. House of Representatives approved their version of the Magnitsky Act last week by 365 votes to 43.

Three years ago, Magnitsky, a 37-year-old Russian lawyer for the Heritage investment fund, died in a Moscow jail cell. His family and former employers say he was jailed, tortured and killed for exposing the biggest tax fraud in modern Russian history. No one in Russia has been put on trial.

The Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Lukashevich said that approval of this “anti-Russian law” would “inevitably have a negative impact on the entire range of Russian-U.S. relations.”

Boris Kalyagin, a professor at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, said the U.S. Congress is singling out Russia. Many other countries — Saudi Arabia, for example — violate human rights, he said.

“Why a special law which humiliates, which insults Russians?” Kalyagin said. He worked in the late 1990s as a Russian TV reporter in Washington. “In the heads of many Russians, this can only be Cold War thinking.”

Next year, at least a dozen parliaments in the European Union plan to consider similar visa and asset bans against Russian officials involved in the Magnitsky case.

— With reporting from

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