Russia warns US of retaliation over jail death law | Pakistan Today

Russia warns US of retaliation over jail death law

Russia on Wednesday warned the United States it would retaliate if US lawmakers passed a law blacklisting officials implicated in the death in jail of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in 2009.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov expressed fury over the approval by the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee of a bill that would deny visas and freeze assets of Russian officials linked to the death of Magnitsky.
“We do not just regret but are astonished that work on the Magnitsky legislation is continuing in defiance of common sense and despite Moscow’s signals that such steps are counterproductive,” he said, quoted by Russian news agencies.
Ryabkov warned that if the bill was passed into law by the House of Representatives and then the Senate, Moscow could hit Washington with measures even harsher than their own blacklist.
“There will be a response and not just symmetric. There could also be an asymmetric response. But all the same there is still the chance (for Washington) to consider the consequences,” he said.
The future of the bill remains unclear with President Barack Obama’s administration wary of damaging already tetchy relations with Russia at a time when the West is pushing Moscow to work more closely to halt the bloodshed in Syria.
Magnitsky, a 37-year-old lawyer, died in a Moscow prison in 2009 from untreated illnesses, according to the official medical report.
The lawyer had been held in a fraud probe against his client, US investment firm Hermitage Capital, that was launched after he accused senior tax and interior ministry officials of a massive scam to defraud the Russian budget.
When he died, Magnitsky had been in pre-trial detention for 11 months and had never been found guilty of any crime.
The Kremlin’s human rights committee has also said there is evidence he was tortured to death. Investigators opened a probe into the incident but so far no official has received criminal punishment over the tragedy.
The death of Magnitsky has become a symbol for the appalling conditions in Russian prisons and the apparent impunity of top officials acting without fear of legal retribution.

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