Two Russian generals have reportedly called off a US visit after senators asked for a review of their visa requests. A proposed Senate bill would restrict visas for 60 Russians allegedly linked to the case of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.
Sergei Magnitsky was just one statistic among more than 4,000 people who die each year after being consigned to Russia's overcrowded and brutality-plagued prison system.
But the story of the dedicated corporate lawyer who died under suspicious circumstances in pretrial custody two years ago, after being arrested by the very police officers he had testified against in a major corruption case, has shocked the world and led to a wave of repercussions that could undo the tenuous "reset" that has thawed US-Russian relations since President Obama took office.
The US Senate is considering a bill that would impose visa restrictions and financial penalties on 60 Russians allegedly involved in Mr. Magnitsky's imprisonment and death, while the State Department has already put less sweeping measures in place. Russia has retaliated with its own list of 11 US citizens, mainly associated with the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, who may not enter Russia.
But as US and Russian officials ratchet up their rhetoric and exchange cold-war-style blacklists, many who are closely involved with the case say they don't want to see it become a new source of division, but rather hope for an outcome that establishes new standards of international accountability.
"This is not an anti-Russian campaign by any means," says Bill Browder, founder of Hermitage Capital, once Russia's largest investment fund, for whom Magnitsky was working at the time of his 2008 arrest.
The controversy may already be taking a toll at the nuts-and-bolts level of US-Russia relations.
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