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Obama signs Russian trade and human rights bill

December 15, 2012

President Barack Obama signs the Russia and Moldova Jackson-Vanik Repeal and Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington. Standing from left are: Sen Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.; Klaus Kleinfeld, chairman and CEO of Alcoa Inc.; Sen Ben Cardin, D-Md.; Sen Roger Wicker, R-Miss.; Sen Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn.; Sen Max Baucus, D-Mont. President Obama; House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md.; Rep  Sandy Levin, D-Mich.; Rep Jim McGovern, D-Mass.; and Rep Gregory Meeks, D-NY — Photo by AP

WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama has signed a bill that will expand trade with Russia but could antagonise relations with Moscow over its treatment of dissidents.  

While welcoming better trade relations, Russia has threatened retaliation over a section of the law that would punish Russian officials who allegedly commit human rights violations.

A Russian official suggested sanctions could be imposed on US officials accused of rights violations in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.

Sen John McCain, a main sponsor of the human rights measure, says it will help the Russian people by ''sending a signal'' to Russian President Vladimir Putin that human rights abuses will not be tolerated.

The law eliminates a 1974 law that tied trade relations with the former Soviet Union to the emigration of Jews and other minorities.