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28 Feb, 2013 09:39

We did not initiate the visa row with US – Russian lawmaker

We did not initiate the visa row with US – Russian lawmaker

The question of US citizens getting Russian visas depends solely on the United States, a top Russian MP said after a House of Representatives member complained he was denied entry in Russia for his political activities.

Russia never concealed the fact that we have made a blacklist of US citizens after the US Congress passed the Magnitsky Act. We have warned them, but we were not the initiators of this process,” MP Aleksey Pushkov was quoted as saying by the Russian News Service radio.

The comment came after Republican Chris Smith, the chairman of the House subcommittee on Human Rights said in a Wednesday interview that he had been denied Russian visa for the first time and linked this with his sponsorship of Magnitsky Act – the recent US laws that imposes sanctions on Russian officials allegedly complicit in human rights violations.

Chris Smith said that this was the first time he was denied Russian visa adding that he managed to travel to the Soviet Union “during its worst days”. Other countries who have denied entry to Chris Smith are China, Cuba and Belarus he added.

According to Smith, Russian ambassador to US told him that the decision on visa denial had been made in Moscow and personal interference of the US ambassador to Russia has not improved the situation.

Russian embassy in Washington has said that it was not giving official comments on its visa policy.

Russian officials repeatedly blasted the Magnitsky Act as an attempt to influence justice, intervention in the internal affairs of a sovereign state. Soon after the act was drafted as a bill the Russian side warned that it would retaliate with a similar action. In 2012 Russian Foreign Ministry issued a classified blacklist of US citizens comprised of individuals that Russia believed were complicit in Human Rights violations at the Guantanamo detention center. Earlier this year the list was extended to 60 people and now includes the officials and law enforcers who are believed to be a part of illegal prosecution of Russian nationals.

In late January Russian deputy foreign minister Andrei Belov told the press that his country had officially denied a visa to a US admiral who used to be the head of the Guantanamo prison. He did not give the admiral’s name, but the mass media suggested that the diplomat was talking about Rear Admiral Jeffrey Harbeson.

Russia also introduced the Dima Yakovlev Law from the beginning of 2013. The law, seen as an official reply to Magnitsky Act, provides for an entry ban and an asset freeze for all foreign citizens who are suspected of human rights violations in Russia. The law also contains an amendment that bans all adoptions of Russian orphans by US citizens and by proxy of US organizations. This happened after Russian diplomats repeatedly complained of the US side’s unwillingness to cooperate in cases of child abuse involving adopted Russian kids.

The situation with the adopted Russian children in US was actually the reason behind Chris Smith’s plans to visit to Russia. The US politician has said that he shared the legitimate concerns of the Russian officials and prepared a resolution , highlighting the death of 19 Russian children adopted by US parents.

The politician also said he was going to reapply.