US rights bill 'extremely unfriendly move': Putin aide

9th December 2012, Comments 0 comments

President Vladimir Putin's top foreign policy aide Sunday called the passing by the US Senate of legislation targeting Russian officials implicated in the death of a lawyer "an extremely unfriendly move."

"Americans have made an extremely unfriendly move against us," former ambassador to the United States Yury Ushakov said on Sunday.

"Americans have shown us before the New Year's how Russia is perceived on Capitol Hill.

"I will remind you that stereotypes about our country still persist and no one can get rid of them," Russian news agencies quoted Ushakov as saying.

He noted Russia did not have a choice but to respond in kind.

"The worst thing is, we are forced to make similar unconstructive retaliatory moves because we live in a pragmatic world where diplomacy and the principle of reciprocity reign and we should respond and we will of course respond," Ushakov was quoted as saying.

The legislation, passed by the US Senate on Thursday, established permanent normal trade relations with Russia, ending Cold War-era restrictions.

But it would also compel the US government to freeze the assets of anyone tied to the 2009 death in jail of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky and deny them entry to the United States.

Russian officials have vowed to retaliate, with Alexei Pushkov, the chairman of the international affairs committee at the country's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, saying lawmakers were considering tweaking the existing legislation and adopting new measures.

"In the State Duma, the majority is leaning towards adopting a bill that would be focused on the United States," the state RIA Novosti news agency quoted Pushkov as saying on Sunday.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov added that he expected all Russian lawmakers to support the anti-US measures.

"The Magnitsky bill is an attempt to meddle in our domestic affairs," RIA Novosti quoted Lavrov as saying. "That is why I am very much interested in seeing a collective, multi-party reaction from the State Duma."

Magnitsky worked for a Western firm and claimed to have discovered a major tax fraud covered up by government officials.

He died in a Moscow prison at 37 after spending almost a year under pre-trial arrest that his mother said had exposed him to "torture conditions" and which his employer called retribution for his testimony against interior ministry officers.

© 2012 AFP

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