Friday, December 14, 2012

Catching up on Russia

I am aware of not having covered the Magnitsky saga recently and shall do so very soon, particularly as it involves the unhappy fate of the Conservative Friends of Putin Russia.

For the moment, let me just direct readers of this blog to an article in the Wall Street Journal [if the link does not work properly go through Google].

The so-called Magnitsky Law, named after Sergey Magnitsky, imprisoned, tortured and murdered for his attempts to do his duty as a lawyer employed by a British firm, is part of a larger bill to normalize trade with Russia. This piece of legislation, whose aim is to prevent specific abusers of human rights in Russia from entering the USA was passed by the Senate last week by 92 votes against 4 but is still awaiting President Obama's signature. There has already been what might be termed an  organized response from Russia.
On its Twitter account, the foreign ministry in Moscow called the human rights statute "something out of the theater of the absurd." Another tweet said, "It is perplexing and preposterous to hear human rights complaints from the US, where torture and kidnapping are legal in the 21st century." And: "This biased approach is nothing but a vindictive desire to counter Russia in world affairs."
Same old, same old.
The Kremlin has for months made vague threats of retribution against the U.S. if the Magnitsky law passed. And on Thursday Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced the law and recommended to the Duma some "adequate but not exorbitant" retaliation.
As the WSJ says:
Please fume away, Mr. Putin. Let the Russian people know that the U.S. continues to care about rights and democratic freedoms. They might have gotten the wrong impression in recent years.
They might still get the wrong impression:
Throughout the first term President Obama has pushed a "reset" in relations with Russia, muting criticism of Mr. Putin's slide to authoritarianism. The Administration tried to kill the Magnitsky Act, and in his statement on its passage Mr. Obama pointedly failed even to mention Magnitsky or the provision named after him in the new law. We can be grateful that at least Congress was willing to stand up for American values.
UPDATE: President Obama has signed legislation "granting normal trade relations to Russia, which angered Moscow by including sanctions targeting alleged Russian human rights abusers". The Magnitsky Act is now in place in the United States.

Meanwhile, in Russia
A former Russian policeman has been sentenced to 11 years in a prison camp for his role in the 2006 death of an anti-Kremlin journalist.
Friday's sentencing of Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov by the Moscow city court came at the end of a plea bargain process that qualified him for a reduced sentence in exchange for his co-operation in the case.
Pavlyuchenkov was accused of tracking Anna Politkovskaya so she could be assassinated and of giving the shooter the gun with which the journalist was killed.
Having confessed his guilt, the defendant was ordered to pay $98,000 to the victim's family.
Unsurprisingly, Politkovskaya's family is unhappy with this turn of events. They do not mind Pavlyuchenkov being sentenced (though one wonders how many of those 11 years he will serve) but they dislike the idea of the plea bargaining as that meant he did not have to testify. No testimony - no evidence about who actually was behind the killing. (Here are the previous postings on the Politkovskaya case.)

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