Russia widens anti-U.S. retaliation

MOSCOW, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- Russia widened its retaliation against the United States, banning adoption of Russian children by U.S. citizens and warning of tit-for-tat measures against U.S. visitors over a spiraling human rights debate.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he informed U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of Moscow's decision to bar Americans guilty of human rights violations.


Lavrov's statement was a response to new U.S. legislation that streamlines trade with Russia but authorizes sanctions against Russians found guilty of human rights violations.

Russians on a U.S. black list can be barred, denied U.S. visa and have assets frozen under the new law, called the Magnitsky Act to commemorate Russian lawyer and whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Russian prison three years ago, allegedly of torture.

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Lavrov said Russia would do likewise.

"We will bar entry to Americans who are in fact guilty of human rights violations," he said.

The Russian retaliatory measure is intended to cast its net wider, as it became clear when the Duma, Russia Parliament's lower house, approved an amendment banning adoption of Russian children by U.S. families.

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It will also ban any U.S.-funded non-government organization found to be involved with "political work in Russia."

The bill goes next to the Federation Council upper chamber and then to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin has called the U.S. legislation an unfriendly act.

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The U.S. law was passed simultaneously with the lifting of the 1974 Jackson-Vanik amendment, which had tied U.S. trade relations with the former Soviet Union to the emigration of Jews and other Soviet minorities from the U.S.S.R.

What has drawn Russian ire is the U.S. trade law's linkage with human rights.

Under the Magnitsky Act sanctions, the United States must release a list of Russian officials thought to have been involved with human rights violations and deny them a visa and freeze their assets.

Putin told a Moscow news conference Thursday he approved of the adoption ban as part of the Russian response to the Magnitsky Act.

"It's an emotional, but adequate response," Putin said of the Duma vote.

"They (the United States) replaced one anti-Soviet, anti-Russian law with another. They can't do without it," Putin said.

RIA Novosti said the proposed Russian legislation will ban alleged "U.S. abusers of Russian citizens' rights from entering Russia, to ban political NGOs funded by U.S. sources and to bar U.S. citizens from working for politically active NGOs in Russia, freezing any assets they may have in the country."


The Russian law would also bar Russian organizations from facilitating adoptions by U.S. citizens.

Novaya Gazeta newspaper says it has collected at least 100,000 signatures against the adoption ban, which has sparked a public outcry among both officials and civic groups.

"Critics say the move will strand thousands of children, especially those with disabilities, in Russia's outdated state institutions," RIA Novosti said.

Since 1999, parents in the United States have adopted more than 45,000 Russian children, including 962 in 2011, RIA Novosti said, citing U.S. data. Russian officials claim at least 19 Russian children adopted by U.S. citizens have died in that period.

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