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Senator wants more countries to create Russia rights lists

U.S. President Barack Obama stands next to U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md) while greeting customers at the Texas Ribs & BBQ restaurant in Clinto
U.S. President Barack Obama stands next to U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md) while greeting customers at the Texas Ribs & BBQ restaurant in Clinto

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The senator who championed a law penalizing Russia for alleged human rights abuses said on Thursday he expected other countries to pass similar statutes and that more Russians may be added to Washington's list of those banned from the United States under the measure.

"This is a process that is continuing," Senator Ben Cardin said at a news conference at the Capitol, flanked by the mother, wife and young son of Sergei Magnitsky, a 37-year-old Russian whistleblower whose 2009 death in prison inspired the measure.

The Obama administration last Friday released a list of 18 Russians subject to visa bans and asset freezes in the United States under the Magnitsky Act that Congress passed late last year.

Moscow, which considers the Magnitsky Act outside interference and, in response, outlawed adoptions of Russian children by Americans, retaliated on Saturday by banning 18 Americans from entering Russia.

Cardin said Russia's move had not weakened his resolve.

"I think this should be an international standard. Those (behind) gross violations of human rights should be held accountable," the Maryland senator said.

Canada and countries in Europe are considering similar legislation, he said, adding, "We normally find that if the United States takes the lead, other countries will help us."

Some U.S. lawmakers have criticized the Magnitsky list as short. For example, some human rights advocates wanted to see Alexander Bastrykin, who heads Russia's equivalent of the FBI, on it. He has denied that Russian officials were involved in Magnitsky's death.

Alexei Pushkov, a member of the Russian State Duma, was quoted by Interfax as saying President Barack Obama may have done the minimum possible under the law so as not to worsen relations. Obama needs Moscow's cooperation on key issues like Iran's and North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

Cardin said he had spoken to officials involved in putting together the list and said it could get longer.

"They made clear that this is the first list, it's not the last list," he said.

(Editing by Philip Barbara)

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