Russia promises tit-for-tat response to US bill

AP News
Posted: Dec 10, 2012 7:38 AM

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia will quickly retaliate against U.S. officials after the U.S. Congress approved a bill imposing sanctions on Russian officials accused of human rights violations, the lower house's speaker said Monday.

The legislation passed last week primarily aimed to end Cold War-era trade restrictions that have held back American businesses which want a share of the Russian market. Russian officials, however, have bristled at a section they interpret as U.S. intervention in Moscow's domestic affairs and sought to turn the tables on the United States.

Sergei Naryshkin said the State Duma parliament this week will consider measures against U.S. officials "who are rudely violating human rights." The bill was submitted to the Duma on Monday.

"It's amazing that a country that created secret prisons on the territory of other countries where people are being tortured like in Dark Ages is lecturing others," Naryshkin said, apparently referring to the U.S. "extraordinary rendition" program that shuttled suspected terrorists between CIA-run overseas prisons and the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

The draft bill envisages sanctions against U.S. citizens who committed crimes against Russian citizens or were involved in covering them up. It specifically mentions judges who issued "unfounded or unfair verdicts" against Russian citizens and those U.S. citizens who were involved in "unfounded" prosecution of Russians.

According to the draft, such U.S. citizens would be barred from entering Russia and see their assets in Russia frozen. It says Russian authorities will make a list of Americans targeted by the bill.

Last week, Russia required all shipments of U.S. beef and pork to be tested and proved free of an animal feed additive called ractopamine. The measure effectively amounts to a ban because the U.S. considers ractopamine safe.

The move was widely seen as punishment for the U.S. legislation, though Russian officials have denied that. They said they had warned the U.S. of the move in advance and argued that the additive is also banned in the European Union and China. The official statements have failed to stem allegations of political motives.

U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul tweeted Monday that the Russian barriers on U.S. meat imports were "a very unfortunate development."

The U.S. measure, dubbed the Magnitsky act, is named for Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who was arrested by officials he accused of a $230 million tax fraud. He was repeatedly denied medical treatment and in 2009 died after in jail after being severely beaten by guards. Russian rights groups accused the Kremlin of failing to prosecute those responsible.

The U.S. bill must still be signed by President Barack Obama, who hailed the legislation last week as good for U.S. businesses.