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U.S. LAWMAKERS PUSH VISA SANCTIONS IN RUSSIAN CASE

Reuters

September 30, 2010 -

U.S. lawmakers push visa sanctions in Russian case



WASHINGTON | Wed Sep 29, 2010 4:24pm EDT



WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More than 60 Russians linked to the death of an anti-corruption lawyer would be barred from the United States and its financial markets under a bill introduced in the Congress on Wednesday.



The measure says that sanctions would be lifted only after Russia brings to justice those responsible for the 2009 death of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer for what was once Russia's top equity fund, Hermitage.



But the bill, introduced by Senator Benjamin Cardin and Representative James McGovern, both Democrats, faces a steep climb to get passed before Congress completes its work for the year.



Human rights activists charge that Russian authorities subjected Magnitsky to conditions amounting to torture in a failed bid to force him to testify in their favor in a battle with Hermitage over a $234 million tax fraud scheme.



Magnitsky died after being repeatedly denied medical treatment in pre-trial detention. He had accused Russian officials of stealing the millions of tax dollars paid by his client.



A Democratic aide said the bill has drawn bipartisan interest and lawmakers might get to it when they return to Washington after the November 2 congressional election for what is expected to be a final few weeks of work.



"Nearly a year after Sergei's death, the leading figures in this scheme remain in power in Russia," said Cardin, who also chairs the human rights monitoring U.S. Helsinki Commission, an independent federal agency.



"If we expect any measure of justice in this case, we must act in the United States," said Cardin. "At the least, we can and should block these corrupt individuals from traveling and investing their ill-gotten money in our country."




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Senator Cardin and Rep. Hastings at the 2009 OSCE PA Annual Session in Vilnius, Lithuania