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Russian Lawmakers In Washington To Argue Against Magnitsky Sanctions

A man holds a portrait of Sergei Magnitsky as he protests against police lawlessness in front of the Russian Interior Ministry in Moscow in March.
WASHINGTON -- A delegation of Russian lawmakers is in Washington this week to protest the possible imposition of U.S. sanctions against dozens of Russian officials implicated in the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.

Aleksei Chernyshev, Vitaly Malkin, Aleksandr Savenkov, and Valery Shnyakin -- all members of Russia's upper house of parliament, the Federation Council -- said in a dossier sent to U.S. senators and seen by RFE/RL that a "preliminary" parliamentary investigation into the Magnitsky case is complete.

The findings claim that Magnitsky's arrest was legal, despite the fact that he was taken into custody by the same officials he had implicated earlier in a scheme to defraud the Russian government. The findings also claim that Magnitsky was guilty of financial crimes and cast doubt on the allegations of torture and an official cover-up surrounding his death.

The 37-year-old lawyer died in 2009 in pretrial detention after being repeatedly denied medical care and, according to independent investigations, beaten.

The Russian government has charged one low-level official in the case, which has since become an international symbol of Moscow's human rights and rule-of-law failings.

Pending legislation in the U.S. Congress would impose financial restrictions on and deny visas to implicated officials. The measure has provoked outrage in Moscow.

The Russian lawmakers in Washington have also argued against Magnitsky sanctions in meetings with U.S. State Department officials this week.

At a July 11 press conference at the Russian Embassy, Malkin acknowlegded that a full investigation into the case was "late" and said he did remain "unsure" of whether some of the officials Magnitsky had implicated were free of guilt.

But he also warned that U.S. sanctions could adversely affect bilateral relations for "decades."

Malkin also said that he expected a number of U.S. lawmakers to be persuaded by the parliamentary's investigations findings. He said, however, that the Russian Embassy was "unable to arrange" a meeting with Senator Benjamin Cardin (Democrat-Maryland), who has spearheaded the Magnitsky sanctions push.

For his part, Savenkov said, "If Magnitsky were still alive he would have been able to explain his position. I am absolutely sure that he would have cooperated with the [parliamentary] investigation."