Posts Tagged ‘us news’

October 2013

Sweden’s Shame, Putin’s Gain

US News

Russian President Vladimir Putin sometimes converses in Swedish with his chief of staff, Sergei Ivanov, Ivanov told the Moscow Times in an odd revelation published on October 2.

But President Putin may have had reason to brush up on his Swedish. On September 23, Stockholm refused to clearly guarantee Kremlin critic Bill Browder protection from a Russian arrest warrant while briefing Sweden’s parliament on the case of Sergei Magnitsky. As a result, Browder canceled his trip to Stockholm.

Magnitsky was a tax lawyer who died from abuse in a Russian jail cell nearly four years ago. Russian authorities had detained him in retaliation for exposing a massive tax fraud against the Russian public. In addition to jailing Magnitsky in appalling conditions that led to his death, the Russian government also posthumously convicted him, and Browder in absentia, of tax evasion, and is pursuing other cases against Browder as well.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the European debt crisis.]

In a letter to Browder’s attorneys, Martin Valfridsson, an official in Sweden’s Justice Ministry, said Stockholm could not act on a request from Russia that had not been made.

Left to stand, Sweden’s at best ambiguous position on Browder reflects a disturbing deference to Moscow on a legal matter that even Interpol has refused to respect, labeling it “predominantly political.”

Furthermore, Stockholm’s action is a back door way to thwart progress toward adoption of legislation that would put Sweden, its banks and desirable real estate off limits to Russians connected to Magnitsky’s death or other abuses of power. And it is damaging to the Russian democratic opposition which has enthusiastically endorsed the Magnitsky sanctions effort as “pro-Russian.”

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