Russia threatens retaliation against Magnitsky bill

Russia has said it informed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that it will bar Americans guilty of human rights abuses from entering the country in response to the Magnitsky bill. 

The bill, which was passed by Congress on Thursday, would blacklist Russians guilty of rights abuses by denying visas and freezing their financial assets, reports the BBC.

The bill was included as part of legislation that lifts Soviet-era trade restrictions on Russia. 

"We will bar entry to Americans who are in fact guilty of human rights violations," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he told Secretary Clinton, after a meeting in Dublin focusing on the Syrian conflict.

The Financial Times reports that the Russian foreign ministry called the vote “theater of the absurd.”

“It is strange and savage to hear human rights claims from politicians of the state that officially legalised torture and kidnappings all over the world in the 21st century,” the ministry said. 

“Either they have forgotten what year it is in Washington, and think it is still the Cold War, or these senators have become too distracted by the opportunity for self promotion to realize the obvious: any country can close its borders to whomever it wants, without requiring special legislative acts.”

The Kremlin went all out to make a public display of protest against the Magnitsky bill. It dispatched the youth wing of the United Russia party, the Young Guards, to protest the vote in front of the US embassy in Moscow on Friday, reported the Guardian. 

"The US positions itself as a country of freedom. And yet, the American leadership is itself infringing upon the freedom of citizens of another country," Maxim Rudnev, a member of the Young Guard, told the Guardian. "It's worth asking: is the United States deserving of hosting the Statue of Liberty?"

The Financial Times reports that the Magnitsky bill is now a major bone of contention between Washington and Moscow, but former Russian Prime Minister and intelligence chief Yevgeniy Primakov told Russia Today that it won't have a serious effect on Russia-US relations.

“We have an opportunity to make similar lists, but I do not think that it will all go further than that,” Primakov said in response to an audience question at the Russian Academy of Science.