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US Magnitsky Law draws Kremlin ire – but many Russians support it

The new law, enacted in the US last week to target Russians involved in the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, has infuriated the Kremlin, which sees it as a 'purely political, unfriendly act.'

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A demonstrator holds a poster reading "Add Putin to 'Magnitsky List'" during an anti-government rally in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Saturday. The Magnitsky List, a piece of US legislation signed into law on Friday, targets Russian officials involved in the 2009 death of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.

Dmitry Lovetsky/AP

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Russia's State Duma will take up a stern new bill Tuesday, the Dima Yakovlev List, aimed at punishing US officials who are implicated in human rights violations against Russians, including adoptive children who die at the hands of American parents and others allegedly abused by the US justice system.

The Duma bill appears to be pure retaliation for the Magnitsky List, targeted against Russian officials involved in the 2009 prison death of Russian anti-corruption whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky, which was signed into law by President Obama on Friday.

The Yakovlev List, named after one of about 15 Russian children to die at the hands of their adoptive US parents in the past two decades, will levy tough economic and visa sanctions against American officials perceived to be involved in mistreatment of Russians.

While most Americans seem likely to ignore the Yakovlev List, a recent poll suggests that a plurality of Russians may be delighted to see their own officials squirm under the pressure of the Magnitsky Act. A late November survey by the independent Levada Center in Moscow found that 39 percent of Russians fully or mostly agree with the import of the US law, while just 14 percent reacted negatively toward it. Another 48 percent of Russians said they were undecided.

"This suggests that as much as people may dislike the idea of the US interfering in our internal affairs, they hate their own officials more," says Masha Lipman, editor of the Moscow Carnegie Center's Pro et Contra journal.

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