Was the Magnitsky Act Inevitable?

(This piece originally appeared on Russia Beyond the Headlines)

In the closing days of the year, all the attention has suddenly turned on Russian parliamentarians: ignoring the distractions of the looming holiday break, they produced a “symmetric” response to the Magnitsky Act. The Magnitsky Act, adopted by the U.S. Congress just a few weeks ago, will ban entry in the United States and freeze financial assets there of Russian officials suspected of human rights violations. In an attempt to punish the United States for the act, which Moscow considers blatantly anti-Russian, the State Duma developed a piece of legislation of its own: the so-called Dima Yakovlev law named after a Russian boy who was adopted by an American family and later died as a result of a tragic accident.

Similar to the Magnitsky Act, the Dima Yakovlev law will ban entry into the country of Americans responsible for the violation of rights of Russian citizens; it will also make it illegal for non-profit organizations engaged in “political activities” to accept funding from U.S. citizens. Yet the most controversial provision of the Dima Yakovlev law is to ban the adoption of Russian children by American parents. Passed by the Duma on Dec.21, the law was approved by the Federation Council on Dec. 26; Russian president Vladimir Putin signed the law on Dec. 28.

The appearance of the Dima Yakovlev law resulted in a tsunami of public protests, the scale and strength of which surprised everyone, including, perhaps, the Russian lawmakers themselves. The major argument put forward by the critics has been that the implementation of the law will predominantly harm the interests of Russian orphans, especially those with disabilities, which, while being morally wrong, may also place Russia in violation of a number of its international obligations. Russian daily Novaya Gazeta reported that its website collected more than 100,000 signatures calling on the Duma to repeal the law. Joining the ranks of those opposed to the law were prominent members of Russia’s political establishment, including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Minister of Education Dmitry Livanov.

Curiously enough, in the heat of the argument over the appropriateness of Russia’s response to the Magnitsky Act, the act itself was all but forgotten. This is unfortunate as Russia must learn a few important lessons from the whole Magnitsky affair. The most important is that the adoption of the Magnitsky Act by U.S. Congress was not inevitable. When the former boss of Sergei Magnitsky, British citizen Bill Browder, outlined the idea of a Magnitsky bill, it was met with significant skepticism on Capitol Hill. Moreover, the Obama administration from the very beginning expressed its opposition to the bill. But Browder persisted and kept lobbying for the bill. And what did Moscow do in response? Nothing. Apparently considering Browder too irrelevant to pay attention, Moscow watched quietly while the Magnitsky bill gradually strengthened. And yet the only thing Moscow had to do to kill the bill in its cradle was to clearly articulate something that has been long known: that Browder and Magnitsky were suspected of committing serious financial crimes. True, in the summer of 2012, a delegation from the Federation Council did arrive in Washington and try to make this point to American lawmakers. But it was too late: by that time, the sponsors of the Magnitsky Act in U.S. Congress were so heavily invested in this project that it was simply politically impossible for them to change their positions.

It is also worth noting that in his lobbying crusade, Browder was actively assisted by numerous anti-Russian groups, including those organized by the members of the Russian diaspora in the U.S. Meanwhile, the much needed and long-talked-about pro-Russian lobby in America still does not exist. Moscow stubbornly refuses to accept the rules by which the American political system operates and seems to believe that the only way to influence U.S. decision making vis-à-vis Russia is through presidential summits. The adoption of the Magnitsky Act is clear evidence that this approach is wrong: President Obama, while opposing the Act, could not spend his political capital on “fixing” things for the Kremlin. Moreover, if Moscow will not change its attitude—that is, will not begin actively promoting its interests in Western countries, additional anti-Russian acts will follow.

The Magnitsky Act itself has no real significance: the figures on the Magnitsky list are unlikely to apply for American visas and they had plenty of time to liquidate their assets in the U.S. (in case they ever had them). The problem for Moscow is that the adoption of the Magnitsky Act will serve as a trigger that will set in motion the appearance of similar laws all over the European Union. Should this happen – and this seems to be already happening – Russia may kiss goodbye the visa-free travel agreement with EU it is so actively seeking.

As for a “symmetric” response to the Magnitsky Act, Russian parliamentarians would be better off to ban entry to Russia of all sponsors of the bill in the U.S. Congress: 39 Senators and 81 House representatives. Some of them occasionally travel in Russia on business, so such a ban will indeed affect them. Besides, U.S. congressmen have such an oversized ego that they will take close to heart any ban including their name. They will get the message.

About Eugene Ivanov

Eugene Ivanov is a PMI-certified Innovation Management Consultant who helps organizations increase the efficiency of their internal and external innovation programs.
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28 Responses to Was the Magnitsky Act Inevitable?

  1. Dear Eugene,

    I agree with every single point made here. I am really at a loss to know what more to say. Still since I think I should contribute something here it is:

    1. For various reasons I doubt we will get identikit Magnitsky style laws here in Europe. The British government appears to be hostile to the idea and I sense most European governments are and because no European state (even France) has a Presidential system quite like that in the US it would be difficult for someone like Browder or a group of rogue lawmakers to pilot through a Magnitsky style law in a European parliament whose government was against it. More abstractly there might also be an objection that such a law is contrary to the European Convention of Human Rights.

    None of this in any way detracts from the point you are making. If we are unlikely to get Magnitsky type laws in Europe that is hardly because of anything Russia has done. On the contrary just as you say the anti Russia lobby has now got the wind in its sails and there is a serious possibility that something that may be less unpleasant than Magnitsky but still unpleasant enough may yet come to pass with the initiative probably coming from some of the smaller west European countries like the Netherlands and Denmark.

    As for the idea of visa free travel, to be honest I don’t know why the Russian government invests so much time and effort in it since it simply isn’t going to happen. All the popular pressure in Europe is to tighten travel and immigration rules not to relax them. The idea that European governments are going to grant visa free travel rights to 140 million Russians any time soon is a fantasy even if relations with Russia were better than they are.

    2. At least we have Jackson Vanik out of the way. My one hope is that the two sides having made their respective points by each passing their respective laws will now feel able to step back and allow space for proper commercial relations to develop. Some US companies like GM and Exxon are already investing in Russia and perhaps given time others might do so. I continue to think that until the two countries have a normal commercial relationship their political relations will continue to be hostage to the sort of political destabilisation we have just seen. With a flourishing commercial relationship that might change. However the initiative for fostering such relationship lies with Russia and that means Russia working on the ground in the US doing precisely the things you discuss in your article. Continuing to think that everything can be settled with the US by dealing exclusively with the administration as if relations with the US can be conducted as if we were still in the world of Talleyrand and Bismarck is delusional.

  2. Eugene says:

    Dear Alexander,

    Thank you very much for your thoughtful comments.

    I definitely rely on your opinion on the situation in the EU as far as “European Magnistky Acts” are concerned. In addition to what you said, Europe is much more economically dependent on Russia and thus is more vulnerable to Russia’s potential retaliation. Yet, I’d disagree that you need Browder in Europe. You have your own mega-Browder in the person of Kristina Ojuland, the former Foreign Minister of Estonia, who’s more active and noisy than 1,000 Browders combined. We will see.

    I’m not sure that the JV repeal will immediately boost the US-Russia economic relations. Large companies you mentioned learned how to workaround the JV long ago. Yet the lack of massive interests in investing/working in Russia has different reasons, and these reasons haven’t gone away with the JV gone. The image of Russia in the US is deteriorating–the Dima Yakovlev law adding a fresh “meat” to that–and thing will get worse before they get better. At least, this is my prognosis for 2013.

    All the best and Happy New Year!
    Eugene

  3. Alex says:

    Hi, Eugene

    I think this your ” Moscow stubbornly refuses to accept the rules by which the American political system operates and seems to believe that the only way to influence U.S. decision making vis-à-vis Russia is through presidential summits. The adoption of the Magnitsky Act is clear evidence that this approach is wrong:” was a very good observation.It would do Russia good if this was noted and acted upon by Lavrov’s office.

    And now something you probably, will disagree with:
    after watching US reaction to the Russian ban, now I do not feel that this legislation was wrong. You see, while I can believe that there are some (not many) Americans who place human values above their immediate personal (usually financial) gains and even that there are one or two improperly idealistic US politicians among those people, I do not believe that the US Government can act (or ever had acted historically) in a way other than mechanical ” profit maximization” for the US as a country. Usually and almost always at the expense and to the detriment of other countries. In this light their reaction to what is purely internal Russian affair – that is – what to do with the Russia’s own gene pool – is at least suspicious. Their (US) implicit claim that hey have the right to decide or even judge on Russian adoption laws is outright preposterous. As the result I started to suspect that some influential groups in US loose what they consider to be a significant profit because of this law. Which is a good thing.

    In a sense the situation is as peculiar as with Browder – the guy tried to rob Russian robbers, got fleeced instead – and then we have the whole US Congress rising up to his defense. In a true gang-war spirit.

    To clarify – I do feel sorry for the Russian kids who will not get a chance to live in US (even though they are unlikely to become the part of US population who have nothing against Russia or the Russians, and they will inevitably provide only an anti-Russian propaganda benefit to US). Not a big loss , considering. However, Russia as a country has nothing to gain and in fact, stands only to loose by permitting US to adopt its children. The kids .. well .. in fact , they are a collateral damage of the anti-Russian US attitudes.

    Cheers

    • Eugene says:

      Hi Alex,

      It’s not often that I disagree with you, but this time I do. I think in this particular case–the Magnitsky Act–you can’t blame the Obama administration (if we interpret literally your “US government”): they did all they could politically afford to prevent the Act from passing. Besides, their reaction to the Dima Yakovlev law was very measured: you read the same McFall’s tweets as I did to know that. I know that children adoption is a good business in the U.S., but the Russian segment of the market isn’t large, so I don’t suspect too much financial interests involved.

      As far as the Russian gene pool is concerned, the law doesn’t ban the adoption in general, it bans specifically adoptions by American parents. So I’d rather agree with “Futility” (see his comment below) that the Russian response looks petty and betrays weakness, not strength.

      Again, I disagree that Russian adopted kids will be used as a tool in anti-Russian propaganda. I know quite a few families with kids from Russia (they naturally approach us for advises, translations, etc.), and know how these kids are being treated. What genuinely surprises me is that the parents try to preserve the kids’ cultural background: they teach them Russian, visit Russia with them, etc. In a sense, they show a certain respect to the country that was kind enough to give them its (otherwise spare) children. I do feel sorry for these people.

      Cheers,
      Eugene

      • barkeep says:

        The media is at least party at fault for this, because Americans seem to believe that all Russian adopted children suffer from reactive attachment disorder (despite the lack of professional diagnoses in all the most infamous cases). The children end up suffering from what amounts to torture in American homes. Read this letter from Dr. Jean Mercer about what is happening to these children:

        http://phtherapies.wordpress.com/2010/04/13/dr-jean-mercer-open-letter-to-russian-child-ombudsman/

        Has anything improved, and has the media stopped slandering Artyom Savelyev and other adoptees? US courts and the US media have decided they are going to do whatever they want to do, which is ignore the rights of these children and treat them as commodities.

        • Eugene says:

          Do we have any evidence pointing to DECREASING interests in Russian adoptions in the U.S.? If not, I don’t see this as an issue relevant to what we’re discussing here. I myself remember my son’s (then 7-8 year old) teacher suggesting that he had ADD. And he was simply a misbehaving, much-talking kid. Now, he’s 26 and works at a bank.

      • Alexx says:

        Hi, Eugene

        Disagreement is good – sometimes I myself disagree with me🙂 However, I want to clarify few points (if you are up to reading a long comment🙂

        In the previous I described how I think about the Russian adoption ban, not how I feel the inter-country adoption process should be in a better world (or with a better Americans). How I feel is in the “a la Surkov”’s blog post I re-tweeted some time ago.

        The basis for that (“thinking”) was something where we sort of agree – that the Russians should “accept the rules by which the American political system operates”.

        Let’s broadly outline the basic rules and then attempt to formulate the Russian policy which will match the American on this particular (adoption case) example. (btw – in the previous under the “Government” I meant the whole system: Congress + President = legislation. Besides, you have misquoted me – about Browder/Magnitsky I used precisely the “Congress).

        1. “Cooperation is the American way to achieve the American goals”, Michael. Let’s broadly define US-state goals as mechanical (i.e. not burdened with moral excesses) “profit maximization” for the American state – both political and material. Note – I am talking about US as a state, not about its individual citizens.

        Thus Russia (as a state) should only engage in exchanges with US that clearly benefit Russia – otherwise the Russian motives will not be understood correctly  (in other words – the Russia will be held for a sucker and not even “thank you” will be said in the end).

        The benefits for Russia in permitting US to adopt Russian children I mentioned in the previous -in my view these benefits are questionable or non-existent. The only real “benefit” is a shift of the burden in case of adoption of disabled kids, but these cases are very few and besides they serve only to profit US politically – at the Russian expense. Otherwise there are only political losses for Russia (we mildly disagree in this too: these kids might like to say that they are “Russians”, but they will always be of very low opinion about the Russians and the government there – no matter what the system is there – socialist, communist or capitalist – and I would completely understand them, btw).

        2. Few years ago I was reading an American course on negotiations. One exercise there was to choose (in negotiations talks) between a profit, say, $1,000 for your company and $800 for the other side versus, say, $10,000 for your company and $20,000 for the other side. The other side was not in the same industry, but might use the same suppliers. The (American) correct answer was not to let the other side to gain more than you did and thus choose the first option. Now, if you are an American, you call it “competitiveness”. If you are a “Russian” like me, you will call it shitting into somebody’s pot just because you can do it. Or, perhaps, using the expression I saw in relation to this adoption case – “shooting one’s own foot”. At least such shooting will be the culturally correct and understood properly (minus, of course, some disgruntled US businessmen in human trade).

        3. The future of these kids is another question. I am not sure it always be better than in Russia. Given normal human parents their early years will certainly be better simply because of higher living and welfare standards. But their future after that .. I think I have a fair impression how such kids would fare in Australia – to the extent that I don’t think Russians should permit Anglo-Saxon Australians adopt Russian kids either. Cannot 100% vouch that anti-Russian attitudes are the same in US, but I have my suspicions. This third part is, of course, outside of the state-wise interests reference frame we have used, and thus it is irrelevant.

        4. You are correct in describing Washington’s official reaction as “mild”. Though it was much stronger than their reaction on the new US meat import restrcitions (or periodic ножки Буша import problems). The reaction of the American press would be more precise term I should have used. But there was a very noticeable reaction – and thus a possibility of the hurt business interests I mentioned previously. I do not approve human traffic business in any form – particularly, traffic of Russian kids. This should not be profitable to anyone. In any case – according to the par 2 above, if this hurts them somehow and it does not hurt Russia much- then it should be culturally acceptable exchange 

        5. Magnitsky .. Perhaps, it is incorrect to say that the adoption ban was the “Russian answer” to the Browder Bill (noticed “bill”?  ). The problems with US adoptions of Russian kids were have been known from long ago, well before any Magnitsky. These problems were not properly resolved. However, the ban itself is just one of several steps against the US attempt(-s) to govern Russia instead of the Russians. A non-specific reaction of Russian Government, which somehow got disproportionally large in the media. And IMHO – this is a serious problem with USG attitudes that must have been addressed long time ago and it is, in a sense good, that the Russians started to do something about it. That the kids got into that is unfortunate, but I as I tried to demonstrate – it should be in line with “cooperation” American-style.

        Cheers

        • Eugene says:

          Alex,

          I’m back into “agreeing mode” with you:) This isn’t my point to defend the “US government:” you know I criticize it (almost) as often as I criticize the Russian. But I still disagree with you that the children adoption must be a political issue, and if it is, it’s not the U.S. that made it such. First, the Russian constitution doesn’t specify the nationality of the adopting parents. Indeed, parents from many European countries adopt Russian orphans. I understand that Americans have generally more money, and their adoption agencies are more efficient (and arrogant), and that may annoy others. But, hey, Americans have more money. Period.

          I never ever heard about using the adoption of Russian kids as a political factor in US-Russia relations. This is completely moot point here. Everyone knows that Americans adopt foreign kids: from China, South America, Russia and, more recently, Indonesia. So what? The very talk of who–Russia or the US–“benefits” from the adoption seems odd to me.

          Finally, let’s not forget that Dima Yakovlev died in 2008. Sure, I remember a lot of noise in Russia about that back then, but there never been any talk about a special law. Why did it take 4 years to add amendment to anti-Magnitsky law? What is the point of linking these two issues? Is it a human rights issue at all? At least US Congress made it clear: they wanted to replace one “leverage” against Russia (JV) with another (Magnitsky). But what the logic of using the adoption issue when replying to a political bill?

          Cheers,
          Eugene

          • Alex says:

            Ah, Eugene
            I do not have any illusions about rationality of the Russian Duma – this gang can be considered as a random noise generator (in fact, the link about Lugovoi and Co proposal in somebody’s comment illustrates this very well). Unfortunately, it is then up to the President to sign (or not) in their noise into a law. And he it seems is not always up to the task (rational choice) either, especially lately. Anyway, what I am saying that this ban accidentally got into the more or less right direction as if it were planed along the lines of cultural-symmetrical “cooperation” with US- even though it was one in a series of anti-US legislation stream submitted recently. The reasons for this stream to appear is another question, but IMHO it is not so much Putin but the Americans who are to blame (despite all the heroic efforts of McFaul ).. Otherwise about adoption it would be not just “so what” but a pity if it were not happening.

            You may want to consider my overly long posts here as a line of “plausible denial” too – which as I explained, in a sense it was – because I do not like this ban however (accidentally) rational it might happen to be.

            Look – it is a New Year in the part of the globe I am today – it (the New year) will soon come to you too – so,let me wish it to be a Happy & successful year for you.

            Cheers

  4. Futility says:

    The act, above everything else, is embarrassing. It’s genuinely sad. It’s weak, and it telegraphs this weakness to the rest of the world. It’s petty. The response to the Magnitsky bill should’ve been sanguine, laconic, and genuinely symmetrical, and as you say, simply barred entry to the people who voted for the abomination in the first place. Instead the Russian legislature have shown they’re willing to cut off a bunch of orphans’ noses to spite their face. This is their bargaining chip? Then they have no bargaining chips. That’ll show them ‘murricans what’s what.

  5. Eugene says:

    Yes, I totally agree with you. What really surprises me is that the Dima Yakovlev law seems to have been originated from the presidential administration (its authorship is attributed to Vladislav Volodin). This is sad: I have no illusions about the morons from the Duma, by the PA is supposed to be smarter. Well, as they say in Russia: fish rots from its head.

    Best,
    Eugene

    • Futility says:

      http://lenta.ru/articles/2012/12/28/pozner/ (Russian, sorry.)

      Государственная Дура, digging deeper. These idiots should be laughed the hell out of power, and my hope is that the nascent civil society that had been talked about so often lately will push back. Having said that, I have no way of gauging public opinion on this act and the whole circus that surrounds it.

      The vicarious embarrassment I’ve felt over this whole thing is slowly reaching UK Office levels, at its best (and most awkward): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uu2LxYreJ0E

      • Alex says:

        with that (about Duma & its deputies, esp. from UR) I agree completely. Unfortunately, Posner, is a bit controversial figure . in a sense – something like Ксюша

    • marknesop says:

      Unsurprisingly, I do not agree. The forecast that Russia was going to react with a symmetrical law that would prohibit the travel of a few Americans to Russia and possibly seize their non-existent assets in Russia was being greeted with howls of contemptuous laughter before the said law was even being cobbled together, and it likely would have been worth its weight in comedy gold on the late-night talk shows. Adding the ban on adoptions might have been mean, but it certainly got attention, and that anger was more about Americans being told there was something they could not have that was permitted everyone else than any real hunger for adoption of Russian children, which has steadily declined from a high of 5,862 per year in 2004, to 962 in 2011.

      http://adoption.state.gov/about_us/statistics.php

      Maybe there was something Russia could have done to head it off if they had acted earlier, but I strongly doubt it. Jackson-Vanik was destined for the scrap-heap no matter what happened, and if it had held onto it, America would have been in violation of WTO rules, which specify all WTO nations must grant all other WTO nations PNTR, Permanent Normal Trading Relations. That state of affairs would have permitted Russia to discriminate disadvantageously against American products, while American businesses were looking forward to a doubling of trade with Russia subsequent to its accession to the WTO. Still, there was strong objection to repealing Jackson-Vanik unless it could be replaced with something else. The Magnitsky Act hit that sweet spot where reactionary lawmakers were looking for a cause and Browder was looking for sponsors of his personal vendetta against the Russian government. A marriage made in heaven.

      Browder likes to recount how he lobbied U.S. lawmakers, at the suggestion of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. A friend in government guided him to Executive Order 7750, signed by Bush The Younger, which permitted the denial of entry to corrupt foreign officials. Needless to say, that order in itself was all that was needed.

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financial-crime/8713142/Bill-Browder-the-man-making-Moscow-squirm-over-the-death-of-Sergei-Magnitsky.html

      But his initial efforts to tie this order to Magnitsky were indeed rebuffed. So he got a meeting with Ben Cardin and blubbered on his shoulder about getting the bum’s rush – “lost his composure”, is how he put it – and got Cardin in his corner. The rest is history.

      I was amused to note that reference claimed – I don’t know where they got the information – that the intrepid Magnitsky first became involved with Hermitage in 2007, after the raid on their offices. In fact, Magnitsky was involved with Hermitage since 1999, when he helped set up dummy corporate entities Dalny Steppe and Saturn Investments, with the intent of getting around the ban on foreigners trading in GAZPROM stock on the RTS. He originated the scheme of hiring a couple of disabled people for the reduction in corporate taxes; the initial report in their workbooks is in his handwriting, countersigned by Browder.

      Anyway, now that Karpov has sued Browder for libel in the UK, quite a few more details are likely to come out.

      My disagreement notwithstanding, Eugene, I wish you and your family a happy New Year and a 2013 filled with peace and contentment. Best,

      Mark

  6. Dear Eugene,

    Viz a discussion we had some months ago, I thought you might be interested to know that one of the policemen involved in investigating Magnitsky has started libel proceedings against Browder in London. The case has provoked hysteria here and is resulting in press attacks on the British courts for even entertaining the case. It is of course universally assumed that the Russian government is funding the case.

    Could this be the beginning of a proper legal offensive against Browder in London? We shall see.

  7. Eugene says:

    Dear Alexander,

    I’m a bit surprised that this has become news just now. I remember hearing this a few months ago. Am I missing anything? Confusing with something else?

    And, yes, I still remember–and wholeheartedly support–your wonderful idea to sue Browder for corruption in London court.

    Best,
    Eugene

    • Dear Eugene,

      This is one case where I get the sense that your sources in Russia have been altogether more forthcoming about these developments than my sources here in London. I learnt from a poster on Mark Chapman’s blog that the case issued as far back as 4th May 2012. Though I generally keep my ear close to the ground this was one case that entirely passed me by. I suspect there has been an agreement between the parties to keep this case out of the media for as long as possible (something that often happens in libel cases), which is why you have known about it for months from your information in Moscow and I knew nothing about it at all even though the case is happening in London where I live.

      Anyway the good news is that it seems that Karpov is saying that Browder libelled him not only in relation to the circumstances of Magnitsky’s death but in connection with the whole alleged plot to defraud the Russian taxpayer through the alleged theft of the seals of some of Hermitage’s subsidiary companies. This means that the British Court will now have to look into this whole question to decide who (Browder or Karpov) is telling the truth. There is therefore the first small glimmer of a chance that we might finally get to the truth of this part at least of this tangled affair (and by the way le me make it clear I do not know what the truth is). Incidentally since Karpov is surely one of the people who is slated to be placed on the Magnitsky list it will be interesting to see the response in the US if he wins the case.

      If you wish I will try

      • Sorry, I tapped the wrong. What I was going to say is that if you wish I will try to find out when the case will come to trial and see if I can attend the Court when the trial happens. I can then provide you a detailed account of how the case evolves. I am not promising I will be able to do this since the Court will be jammed with lawyers and reporters but I can try.

  8. Eugene says:

    Dear Alexander,

    Nothing mysterious about my sources; here is the link to a RIAN article I had in mind: http://en.rian.ru/world/20120803/174946429.html

    Two things to point out. First, Karpov’s suit is against Firestone, not against Browder–and I don’t know how the whole Hermitage story will be played out here. Second, Karpov reportedly is already on the Magnitsky list, so he knows what he’s fighting for:)

    Naturally, I’ll be following the case very closely, and any “inside” information you can provide will be greatly appreciated. It will be also very interesting to see how Western media cover the case. We may not hear a lot about it should Firestone fail to stand his ground.

    Best,
    Eugene

    • marknesop says:

      Good Evening, Eugene;

      I understood the libel action to be include Browder as well, which is what is being reported from the UK.

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/06/england-helps-silence-kremlin-critic

      However, I would expect plenty of encouragement for either or both defendants to stay in the game rather than settling, even extending to covert financial support, since either of such powerful men of means backing down would imply that their allegations were baseless. After all, they need only prove their charges against Karpov are true to blow him out of the water and – more importantly from the western perspective – validate the Magnitsky Act. Browder has often suggested he would do anything to get justice for his dear friend and colleague, Sergei Magnitsky: here’s his chance.

      Browder and Hermitage would likely be dragged into it anyway, because Karpov and others were accused of lying when they said Magnitsky had to be arrested and jailed in pre-trial detention because he was about to flee the country; however, Karpov is alleged to have confiscated Magnitsky’s passports at some point prior to that.

      It promises to be interesting, and I am going to make a rash early prediction that Browder and Firestone will lose, simply because they have become accustomed to throwing around all manner of accusations – not to mention linking the character of the alleged criminals to the character of other figures in the government who were not even involved – that they have largely lost track of what they alleged. Quite a few of such accusations are helpfully provided in the accompanying article.They expected never to be held to account. Their surprise is palpable, and hopefully, so will be their dismay.

  9. Eugene says:

    Mark,

    Well, I can only repeat what I read. And what I read (in the above RIAN article) was Karpov filing a suit against Firestone, not Browder. Perhaps, the Guardian knows better, as they always do:)

    Regardless, it’d be totally inconceivable if Browder was not dragged into this suit in some or other capacity, either as defendant or witness. I agree with you that if you’re such a fan of law and order as Browder claims he is, you should only cherish a chance to prove yourself in the court of law. But I’m not sure that Browder will be happy with that, and the Guardian piece shows that his multiple supporters prefer one-way media campaigns over legal scrutiny. I’m not surprised, are you?

    Still I believe that the Karpov lawsuit doesn’t deprive Russian of its responsibility to protect its own interests. That’s why I think the Kremlin should go directly after Browder, and not in Moscow, but in London.

    Best,
    Eugene

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