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16th Nov 2018

Russia threatens Ireland with adoption ban

  • Irish leader Enda Kenny (l) and Van Rompuy - two of Kenny's MPs got cold feet after the Russian letter (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Russia has threatened to impose a US-type adoption ban on EU presidency country Ireland if its MPs pass a tough resolution on the late anti-corruption activist Sergei Magnitsky.

Its ambassador in Dublin, Maxim Peshkov, made the threat in a letter to deputies on the Irish parliament's foreign affairs and trade committee dated 11 March and seen by EUobserver.

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Referring to the committee's draft resolution of 4 March, which urged the Irish EU presidency to push for an EU-level visa ban on Magnitsky's alleged tormentors, Peshkov said: "This approach … can have negative influence on the negotiation of the Adoption Agreement between Russia and Ireland being proceeded."

Magnitsky, a Russian accountant, died in pre-trial detention in prison in 2009 after exposing a scam by Russian officials to embezzle $230 million from the Russian treasury.

His former employer, UK-based investment fund Hermitage Capital, has amassed evidence that prison guards starved him of pancreatic medication and subjected him to a brutal beating in the final hours of his life.

Its case was strong enough for the US to impose sanctions on 18 Russian officials earlier this month.

Moscow reacted by banning US families from adopting Russian children.

Hermitage evidence has also prompted MEPs in Brussels and MPs in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden and the UK to call for EU-level action. For his part, EU Council chief Herman Van Rompuy has called the case "emblematic" of the collapse of rule of law in Russia.

Peshkov's letter gave a different version of events.

He told the Irish MPs that Magnitsky was guilty of tax evasion and that he died of "cardiovascular insufficiency."

He also accused Hermitage chief Bill Browder, whose firm back in the day bought shares in Russian energy firm Gazprom, of a plot to "influence" the company, posing "a danger of [sic] national security of the Russian Federation."

Irish MPs will take a second look at the resolution next week.

But two committee members from the ruling centre-right Fine Gael party - Pat Breen and Bernard J. Durkan - got cold feet after Peshkov's threat.

Durkan on 17 April tabled amendments to the text taking out references to Magnitsky's mistreatment and to Irish or EU sanctions.

His text describes the death as "mysterious" and calls instead for "a full and final report into the circumstances of the case."

Breen told the Financial Times on Thursday (25 April) the adoption issue is "sensitive" in Ireland. Durkan told the Irish Times on Tuesday: "We all have to live together … you need to be cautious and you need to be in command of the facts."

For his part, Browder described Peshkov's threat as "a spectacular attack on Irish democracy."

The Irish MP who drew up the original resolution, Jim Walsh from the opposition Fianna Fail party, told the Financial Times: "It is very important that we uphold our traditional independence and commitment in the field of human rights."

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