News / Europe

    US Magnitsky Bill Collides With New Russian Nationalism

    Nataliya Magnitskaya (L), mother of Sergei Magnitsky, grieves over her son 's body during his funeral at a cemetery in Moscow November 20, 2009.Nataliya Magnitskaya (L), mother of Sergei Magnitsky, grieves over her son 's body during his funeral at a cemetery in Moscow November 20, 2009.
    x
    Nataliya Magnitskaya (L), mother of Sergei Magnitsky, grieves over her son 's body during his funeral at a cemetery in Moscow November 20, 2009.
    Nataliya Magnitskaya (L), mother of Sergei Magnitsky, grieves over her son 's body during his funeral at a cemetery in Moscow November 20, 2009.
    James Brooke
    Next week, the United States Senate is to take up the Magnitsky Act, a bill that would ban visas for, and freeze the bank accounts of, about 60 Russian officials believed to have been involved in the arrest and death of Sergei Magnitsky.

    Reviled by Russian authorities, the legislation has become the touchstone in relations between the West and a newly nationalist Russia under Vladimir Putin.

    Three years ago last week, Magnitsky, a 37-year-old Russian lawyer for an American investment fund, died in a Moscow jail cell. His defenders say he was jailed and killed for exposing the biggest tax fraud in modern Russian history. To this day, no one in Russia has been put on trial.

    So last week, the US House of Representatives approved their version of the Magnitsky Act. The measure passed by 365 votes to 43, more than an 8-to-1 margin.

    By the end of December, a version of the Magnitsky Act is expected to be signed by President Barack Obama.

    Moscow responds

    Not so fast, say Russian officials.

    “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 spokesman said that approval of this “anti-Russian law” would “inevitably have a negative impact on the entire range of Russian-US relations.”

    The American legislation collides with new resistance from the Kremlin to pressure from the West.

    Promoting nationalism, Vladimir Putin is getting rid of programs he associates with the 1990s, a time when Russia was weak after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In recent months, the Kremlin announced it was ending the activities of the U.S. Agency for International Development [USAID] and the United Nations Children's Fund [UNICEF] in Russia, as well as a joint nuclear cooperation program with the United States.

    Boris Kalyagin, a professor at Moscow's Higher School of Economics, speaks for many Russians when he wonders why the U.S. Congress is singling out Russia. He said that many other countries - Saudi Arabia, for example - violate human rights.

    “Why a special law which humiliates, which insults Russians?” asks Kalyagin, who 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.”

    For the last year, Russia’s state-controlled television has repeated the theme again and again that the West wants to weaken Russia.

    David Satter is a Russia specialist at the Washington-based Hudson Institute.

    “It is certainly true that these appeals to patriotism and to national chauvinism tend to be successful in Russia,” he said during a visit to Moscow. “But people in Russia are well aware of the corruption of the bureaucracy, they are well aware of the corruption of officials.”

    European sanctions

    This values gap between Russia’s rulers and the West seems destined to grow wider.

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

    Satter said this makes Russia’s ruling class nervous.

    “This really undermines their security,” he said of corrupt government officials. “They would like a situation in which they are free to acquire money illegally and corruptly, and can leave Russia, and can freely spend it and enjoy it in the West.”

    Meanwhile, the battle lines are drawn up.

    With passage of the Magnitsky Act, a virtual certainty next month, Americans in Moscow now are waiting for the second shoe to drop - the Kremlin’s reprisals.

    You May Like

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    Clinton, Sanders Fight for African American Votes

    Some African American lawmakers lining up to support Clinton in face of perceived surge by Sanders in race for Democratic nomination in presidential campaign

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Alexander Kruglov from: Russia, Samara city
    November 22, 2012 1:58 PM
    As Russian citizen I can you say that Russian Foreign Office doesn't express the true opinion of Russian people - they provide you the angry opinion of corrupted employees strongly affected by this issue. In fact the majority of Russian nation support this issue and proposed measures. But this issue will be far more effective if US Cogress add to the persons mentioned in the Sections 5 and 6 of issue their closest relatives - their husbands, wives, children, parents, brothers and sisters. The Russian corrupted employees are registering their criminal property in names of their closest relatives. I have sent a letter about this proposal to US cogressmen - Mr McCain and Mr Ben Cardin but their offices didn't respond me at all... As it sings by old Russian popular song: "God bless America - land that I love!"

    by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
    November 22, 2012 12:34 AM
    The Magnitsky act, if it truly will do what this article indicates, then it clearly is a very counterproductive/anti US forces act. For as long as the US and NATO are involved in the Afghan quagmire; and +++ having Russia support the ISS; having Russia support the EU with Gas/oil; having Russia support anti terror/anti narcotics/anti piracy activities; having Russia support sanctions on Iran; expansionist overlaping claims/concerns on the China sea issues........ etc etc ---> taking frontal actions against Russia's gvmt elites, is clearly a very inane idea, given that absolute evidence, on the facts of the case, is not available such actions are not good ideas. At the same time, Russia needs to be helped along into making its judicial system more effective and more collectively applicable. I hope the Obama administration reflects the misguided potential result (of this inane new act) = to damage relations with the Russian gvmt, at a time when the US/Russia should be working much closer together.
    In Response

    by: Alex Kruglov from: Russia, Samara city
    November 22, 2012 2:12 PM
    "having Russia support sanctions on Iran" - are you really joking??? I'm laughing to drops! Really good joke! Putin's Russia isn't ally of Western countries - it hasn't common values of democracy, fair elections, free trade and fair trial. It blocks all western sanctions against Iran in UN Security Council and supports aggressive foreign Chinese policy against its neighbours. Let open your eyes!

    by: Gennady from: Russia, Volga Region
    November 21, 2012 9:54 PM
    By threatening to launch reprisals for the Magnitsky Act the FSB regime shows it’s losing touch with the reality and logic. After “the reprisals” the regime will be internationally isolated. “Friend” will be just in Byelorussia, North Korea, Iran, and Syria. You’ve got the picture. After short agony the regime will drop down dead and new, post-Putin Russia will emerge.
    Adoring J. Stalin, the FSB regime uses the bloody dictator’s tactics. 1) When A.Hitler had launched the war against Stalinist Russia J.Stalin hid his bloody regime behind women’s skirts under the slogan “For Motheland” after he had in cold blood murdered dozens millions of the best patriots . 2) With Pussy Riot the FSB regime hid itself behind sixth century religious texts of the Russian Orthodox Church. 3) “New Russian Nationalism” is a freshly coined term to cowardly slip away after having been caught red-handed in gross violation of basic human rights and rigged elections. Just a distorted mind can claim any logic in such “nationalism”.

    by: Tanja from: US
    November 21, 2012 5:51 PM
    You forgot to mention that the first part of the bill will, repelling the Cold War era Jackson-Vanik amendment, establish permanent trade relationships with Moldova and RUSSIA. And so Kalyagin's remark looks how it is -obviously bizarre. The bill is about Russia, not about 'other countries!

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.