Russia outraged by proposed U.S. visa ban

May 3, 2012 at 11:17 AM
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MOSCOW, May 3 (UPI) -- Russia's Foreign Ministry Thursday accused the United States of "attempts to interfere in our domestic affairs" by proposing a visa ban for Russian officials.

"We consider such a presentation of a problem unacceptable as it runs against not only the character of Russian-U.S. relations, but also the universally accepted principle of presumption of innocence," Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said Thursday.

The proposed ban, enshrined in the Justice for Sergei Magnitsky Act and co-sponsored by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., would ban U.S. entry for about 60 individuals connected to Magnitsky's death.

The proposed ban follows an investigation into the November 2009 death of Magnitsky, a lawyer, in the Matrosskaya Tishina prison. Magnitsky was arrested in 2008 on charges of tax evasion; however, shortly before his arrest, he claimed he uncovered massive embezzlement by Moscow police and officials.

The investigation into Magnitsky's death revealed the 37-year-old suffered from pancreatitis and a heart condition, which went untreated during his time in prison, RIA Novosti reported. Investigators also revealed signs Magnitsky had been beaten by prison guards just hours before his death.

When the Magnitsky Act was proposed in March, U.S. Ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul defended it. "We believe we can ban people from coming to this country that do grossly abusive things regarding human rights," he said.

McFaul also noted visa sanctions had already been imposed against certain officials believed to be involved in Magnitsky's death.

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