MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia warned on Thursday that the U.S. Congress will damage relations with Moscow if it passes legislation designed to punish Russian officials for human rights violations, and promised a firm response.

U.S. lawmakers may vote on Friday on a measure directing the government to deny visas to Russian officials involved in the detention, abuse or death of a lawyer who died in a Moscow jail in 2009 and freeze any assets they might have in U.S. banks.

"Such a step will unavoidably have a negative effect of the whole range of Russian-U.S. relations ... We will have to react, and react toughly, depending on the final version of this unfriendly, provocative act," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said.

(Reporting by Nastassia Astrasheuskaya; Writing by Steve Gutterman, Editing by Timothy Heritage)