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02:21 GMT +3 hours21 December 2014
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Duma Okays Russia’s Answer to US Blacklist

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The lower house of the Russian parliament on Friday gave preliminary approval to a draft law penalizing US nationals involved in violating the rights of Russian citizens, touted as Moscow’s response to the Magnitsky Act.

MOSCOW, December 14 (RIA Novosti) - The lower house of the Russian parliament on Friday gave preliminary approval to a draft law penalizing US nationals involved in violating the rights of Russian citizens, touted as Moscow’s response to the Magnitsky Act.

Under the Russian bill, submitted to the State Duma on Monday, alleged US rights abusers, including people implicated in the abuse of adopted Russian children, will be banned from entering Russia and have their assets in Russia frozen.

The Duma must pass the bill in two more readings before sending it for approval to the upper house of parliament, the Federation Council.

US nationals whose cases are under consideration at Russia’s Investigative Committee could end up on the blacklist, Pavel Astakhov, the Russian president’s point man for children’s rights, told RIA Novosti.

“The Investigative Committee is currently considering 22 such cases,” he said.

“However, I cannot reveal the candidates’ names due to the ongoing investigation.”

The bill mirrors a US draft law named for whistleblowing lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Moscow jail three years ago.

Magnitsky was arrested on tax fraud charges after accusing a group of Russian officials of embezzling $230 million of state money. He died after 11 months in pretrial detention. His death was officially blamed on his health problems, but the Kremlin’s own human rights council said in 2011 that he was severely beaten hours before dying, and Magnitsky’s supporters claim the case against him was fabricated in revenge for his exposes.

No officials have been prosecuted so far over Magnitsky’s death. Magnitsky himself faces posthumous prosecution by the Russian authorities on tax fraud allegations.

The US Magnitsky Act, which was bundled with landmark legislation normalizing trade relations with Moscow, targets Russian officials implicated in his death with visa bans and asset freezes.

The bill has already been approved by both houses of US Congress. President Barack Obama said last week he would sign the bill into law.

Russian President Vlaidmir Putin on Thursday criticized the US bill as a “purely political, unfriendly act.”