WASHINGTON - A committee of the US Congress voted on Thursday to penalize Russian officials for human rights abuses, adding to tensions with Moscow and complicating White House efforts to pass Russian trade legislation in coming months.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee approved on a voice vote the "Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act," named for a 37-year-old anti-corruption lawyer who worked for the equity fund Hermitage Capital. His 2009 death after a year in Russian jails spooked investors and blackened Russia's image abroad.The measure would require the United States to deny visas and freeze the assets of Russians linked to Magnitsky's death. The Obama administration already has imposed visa restrictions on some Russians believed to have been involved in Magnitsky's death, but kept their names quiet.
Russian officials have warned repeatedly that passage of the bill would harm US-Russian relations. The measure would make the list of alleged offenders public, broaden it to include other abusers of human rights in Russia and prohibit them from doing their banking in US institutions.