US official denied Russian visa, cites Magnitsky Row
MOSCOW, February 28 - RAPSI. A senior US lawmaker has been denied a Russian visa in what he said was likely a retaliatory move for the Magnitsky Act, a US law sanctioning Russian officials accused of human rights abuses, Foreign Policy reported on its website Wednesday.
“I was shocked. During the worst days of the Soviet Union I went there repeatedly,” Rep. Chris Smith, a Republican from New Jersey, was quoted by Foreign Policy as saying. "The Magnitsky bill is the reason I didn’t get the visa. This is the first time.”
Smith said was planning a trip to discuss the Magnitsky legislation, which he voted in favor of last year, as well as other issues with Russian officials, the report said. Smith’s office did not return calls for comment on Wednesday.
The law is named for Sergei Magnitsky, a whistleblowing tax attorney who died in a Russian pretrial detention facility in 2009. It allows the United States deny visas to Russian officials deemed by the White House to be complicit in human rights abuses, as well as freeze their US assets.
US President Barack Obama signed the bill into law in December, angering officials in Moscow, who shortly thereafter banned US citizens from adopting Russian children.
“I was going over to talk about adoption and human trafficking,” Smith was quoted by Foreign Policy as saying. “They have legitimate concerns that we have to meet. I'm disappointed but I am determined to have it reversed. So I'm going to reapply.”
The Russian Embassy in Washington said it did not comment on issues regarding visas. Smith said he met with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, and that the diplomat informed him the decision was made in Moscow, Foreign Policy said.
Smith is a member of the US House of Representatives’ foreign affairs committee, where he chairs the subcommittee on human rights.
He has traveled to Russia repeatedly since being elected to Congress in 1980 and has been a vocal critic of the Kremlin during his time in office.