Russia to 'react toughly' to approval of human rights bill

Russia on Thursday threatened to “react toughly” if the United States places human rights sanctions on the country as part of pending trade legislation.

The House is expected to vote Friday on legislation placing travel and financial sanctions on Russian officials believed to be involved in human rights abuses. The bill is then expected to receive a vote in the Senate.

The so-called Magnitsky Act, named after a whistle-blowing Russian lawyer who died in custody, was crafted by lawmakers of both parties over the White House's objections in exchange for their support for normalizing trade relations with Russia.

“Such a step will unavoidably have a negative effect on the whole range of Russian-U.S. Relations,” Reuters quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich as saying Thursday. “We will certainly not leave the introduction of essentially anti-Russian visa and financial sanctions without consequences. 

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“We will have to react, and react toughly, depending on the final version of this unfriendly provocative act.”

Russia joined the World Trade Organization over the summer, leaving the United States at a competitive disadvantage for access to the world's ninth biggest economy until Congress establishes permanent normal trade relations with America's Cold War nemesis. The Senate Finance Committee unanimously passed legislation linking the trade and human rights bills in July.

In a possible sign that the Kremlin is seeking to assuage U.S. concerns, a Russian newspaper reported Wednesday that a key figure in the Russian corruption case that inspired the measure has been involved in a two-year-old criminal investigation, The Associated Press reported.