The adoption of the Magnitsky Act in the United States was inevitable, although, according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, American senators set a trap for President Barack Obama.
"I don't think this [the adoption of the Magnitsky Act] was the first thing Obama did when he was re-elected. This was inevitable," the foreign minister said in an interview with the Russia Today channel. "When the senators – Senator Cardin and some others – introduced this idea, it was clearly done to create a catch-22 for the administration," said Lavrov.
The United States would have repealed the Jackson-Vanik amendment anyway, Lavrov believes. "With Russia having acceded to the WTO, keeping Jackson-Vanik would mean depriving American companies of the benefits of the Russian Federation's membership in the WTO."
"I think, the Republicans decided to have this trick and hinge the removal of Jackson-Vanik to the Magnitsky Act, which, at that moment, was most likely done against President Obama," said Lavrov.
The Russian foreign minister further noted that, if the United States wanted to deny visas to a number of Russian citizens or freeze their accounts, they could have done so without adopting a law and without making a show.
"But they believed that one of the achievements that the administration had prided itself upon for the last four years was the 'reset' with the Russian Federation. And they wanted to hit Obama exactly on this 'reset' thing," Lavrov said.
"It's unfortunate; it lets domestic politics dominate the international agenda and (in the minds of many) also dominate almost everything that's happening between Russia and the United States. And that is much, much more comprehensive and complex than human rights as interpreted by American senators," the Russian foreign minister said.
In late December, the U.S. announced an initiative to include those State Duma deputies who voted for a symmetrical response to the U.S. on the Magnitsky list. The stance sparked tensions around U.S.-Russia relations and brought about negative reactions from Russian lawmakers.
Up to 50,000 people, including both Americans and Russians, had urged the U.S. White House to consider including Duma deputies on the Magnitsky list. On top of this, a request to include Russian President Vladimir Putin on the Magnitsky list was added to another petition published on the U.S. White House website - "We the People." For the U.S. administration to consider it, 25,000 signatures must be collected by Jan. 20.
"We, the undersigned, are outraged with the actions of Russian lawmakers, who breached all imaginable boundaries of humanity, responsibility, or common sense and chose to jeopardize the lives and well-being of thousands of Russian orphans, some of whom, the ill and the disabled ones, now might not have a chance of survival if the ban on international adoption is to be put in place," the petition reads. "We urge this administration to identify those involved in adopting such legislature responsible under the Magnitsky Act and thus included to the relevant list."
Meanwhile, Lavrov has refrained from commenting on a bill the State Duma passed in retaliation for the U.S. Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act before it has become a law.
"If you think that the State Duma is not independent in its actions, you are wrong. They really have an opinion, which has prevailed now. Don't ask why," Lavrov told journalists on board a plane, returning to Moscow from an EU-Russia summit in Brussels on Dec. 22.
Lavrov pointed out that the Russian president and the government (including himself) have expressed their positions on this bill.
It is obvious to Russia that the story of Sergei Magnitsky, a Hermitage Capital lawyer who died in a Moscow prison in 2009, is being used "for disgraceful purposes."
Concerns about human rights abuses should not be turned into a political instrument, Lavrov believes. "Such things should not be politicized," he said. Any tragedy should serve as a lesson, which should help make the law-enforcement system more humane, the foreign minister noted.
"Yes, people do die in prisons – and not only in Russia but also in Europe and the U.S. By the way, people die at the much extolled International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, as well. Including [former Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic. After all, nobody proposes adopting a ‘Milosevic Act.’ Because this is cynical and blasphemous," said Lavrov.
The State Duma passed the anti-Magnitsky Act bill at the third and final reading on Dec. 21.
The bill originally envisioned measures against people involved in violating the rights of Russian citizens. A number of amendments were proposed to the bill before the second reading, including those banning the adoption of Russian children by U.S. citizens and outlawing bodies and organizations brokering international adoptions between the U.S. and Russia.
This decision drew criticism from a number of nongovernmental organizations and political figures; among these were Lavrov, Education and Science Minister Dmitry Livanov, Minister for Open Government Affairs Mikhail Abyzov, Human Rights Commissioner Vladimir Lukin and others.
In commenting on the matter, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested that, by passing this bill, State Duma deputies responded primarily to the U.S. authorities' inaction toward crimes against children adopted from Russia. Putin said he would define his position on the bill after thoroughly studying it.
The story is based on materials from Interfax.
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