U.S. Senate approves Magnitsky Act linking it to Jackson-Vanik repeal

The U.S. Senate, the upper congressional chamber, has approved the controversial Magnitsky Act, linking it to the repeal of Jackson-Vanik amendment.

The senators passed the version which had earlier been approved by the House of Representatives and which imposes visa and financial sanctions on Russian officials, who, Washington claims, are implicated in the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky and other human rights violations.

Earlier, the senators called for expanding the Magnitsky act to include other countries but then accepted the House's version. Thus, once approved, the bill will require no fine-tuning by a conciliatory commission and will go directly to the president.

Russia will come up with a calm but tough response, the Russian Foreign Ministry's special representative on human rights, democracy and the supremacy of law Konstantin Dolgov said on Thursday.

"This initiative seeks to infringe upon the rights of Russian citizens. We regard it as unjust and unfounded. This is an attempt to interfere in our internal affairs, in the competence of judicial and investigative bodies that continue probing the 'Magnitsky case', or, to be more precise, several cases," the diplomat said.

It is an extra-judicial act from the point of view of international law, he said.

"If this law affects the rights of Russian citizens, then, naturally, we will have to retaliate, and, unfortunately, this will prevent us from improving our relations, building them in line with the spirit outlined by the presidents of the two countries," the diplomat said.

The Russian side has been doing all that needs to be done, but, regrettably, initiatives like this one do occur, he added.

The fact that the Senate will vote on the bill's version dealing specifically with Russia, and not the expanded version targeting officials in other countries is not news to Dolgov. "It will be the version approved by the House of Representatives," he said.

At the same time, the diplomat cautioned against a premature reaction, citing comments by the Russian president's press service and the Foreign Ministry that the response will be such as Russia will deem necessary and conforming to the situation.

"Theoretically, there still is a chance that the situation will get better ahead of the vote. But let's be realists: it's is unlikely," the diplomat said.

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