Putin slams US rights bill, calls it a political act

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin criticized US legislation designed to punish Russian violators of human rights on Thursday but said Moscow’s reaction should not be excessive.

The US Senate last week approved a bill that would require the United States to deny visas and freeze the assets of people involved in the abuse and death of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian anti-corruption lawyer who died in a Moscow jail in 2009, and other alleged rights violators. President Barack Obama is expected to sign it into law soon.

“This is a purely political and unfriendly act,” Putin said. He voiced support for a bill now under consideration in Russia's parliament that would respond to the US legislation with similar measures, barring entry to Americans deemed to have violated the rights of Russian citizens abroad.

But he signaled that Russia’s response would not go far beyond that bill, telling a meeting of lawmakers that Moscow’s reaction “should be adequate but not excessive”.

Russia has said it could respond with other unspecified measures. It denied any connection between the Magnitsky Act and its announcement on Friday of restrictions on meat imports from several countries including the United States.

Putin said the US Magnitsky Act would further strain a relationship tested by the conflict in Syria and the treatment of critics of the Kremlin since his return to the presidency in May.
“Why do they need this? They talk about a ‘reset’ when they themselves make the situation worse,” Putin said, referring to Obama’s efforts to improve relations.

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