Thursday, October 27, 2011


An unpleasant surprise might be expected in the next few days for the White House or Pentagon officials who would decide to go sightseeing in Moscow or take a trip to Sankt - Petersburg: no visa.
In July 2011, the U.S. State Department banned visas for about 60 Russian officials over their involvement in the detention and death of 37 old, Serghey Magnitsky. The so called “Magnitsky list” is one of the sharpest policy responses of the Obama administration to the Russian human rights abuses. Magnitsky died after almost a year in a notorious Moscow pre-trial detention center in November 2009. He had been arrested on tax evasion charges just few days after he claimed that police investigators had stolen $230 million from the state. A Kremlin human rights council report said in July that Magnitsky's death was the result of beating and that the charges against him were false and abusive.

"We, of course, have not left the political provocation against our country unanswered. On the principle of reciprocity, we have confirmed a list of U.S. citizens whose entry into the Russian Federation is undesirable," the Ministry of Foreign Affairs representative Lukashevich said on Saturday, October 22. Also, in one of his public statements, Luckashevich confirmed that the list contains highly-appointed Washington officials tied to crimes in the humanitarian sphere and names of those who are responsible for wrongful actions against Russian citizens in the United States. The main pro-government voices in Russian society generally stated that such calls for morality from US appear especially cynical on the background of the practical legalization of torture in U.S: special prisons, kidnappings and mistreatment of terrorism suspects, the indefinite detention of prisoners in Guantanamo, uninvestigated murders of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan.

From the security perspective, one of the consequences of this reciprocal exchange of visa bans was announced long ago by the Russia government when in July this year it was announced the Obama administration that it will stop cooperation on Iran and prevent further deliveries of supplies to Afghanistan if Congress passes the “Magnitsky list” which criticized the Russian abuses of human rights. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the ‘Magnitsky list’ is viewed as an attempt to interfere in Russia’s domestic affairs and undermine a policy of cooperation with Moscow launched by President Barack Obama.

However one of the main questions is why the Medvedev administration announced the Russian list now, three months after the US list? There is no official explanation for the Russian decision but we might guess that it may be some how related to the recent announcement made by Georgians that they will ban the Russian bid to become a WTO member. Russia, the only major economy not included in the organization, has been seeking membership in the WTO for 18 years and last several years has coordinated its long-awaited accession to the WTO with all 150 member-states apart from Georgia. And taking in account that earlier Medvedev announced that he has no intentions of paying for entry to the (WTO) by changing the political situation after Georgian aggression against South Ossetia, we may suppose that the answer to the question is that Russia is trying to play the visa card to push US to influent Georgians’ decision to ban the Russia accession to WTO.

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