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State Department Revokes Visa Of Putin Opponent

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The Trump administration's State Department has revoked the visa of British financier and activist Bill Browder after Russian officials successfully issued an international warrant for his arrest through the International Police Organization (Interpol). Browder was instrumental in passing the Magnitsky Act, a 2012 U.S. sanctions package that froze the assets of Russian President Vladimir Putin's associates.

On Oct. 22, Browder disclosed that the State Department had cancelled his authorization to travel to the United States. The American-born British citizen discovered that Interpol had granted a Russian warrant for his arrest on the same day that his U.S. visa was revoked, Business Insider reports.

"I checked with law-enforcement contacts and learned that Russia added me to the Interpol system via a diffusion notice on October 17," Browder said.

Browder became a human rights activist after his friend, attorney Sergei Magnitsky, died while in the custody of Russian officials he was investigating for corruption in 2009. Browder asserted that Magnitsky had uncovered a $230 million fraud scheme that was allegedly approved by Putin himself. Magnitsky was reportedly chained to a bed by Russian authorities, denied medical treatment, and beaten to death.

In 2012, Browder successfully lobbied Congress to pass the Magnitsky Act, a law that froze the assets of Russian human rights abusers and barred them from U.S. entry. On July 25, Browder stated during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee that eliminating the law had become a priority for Putin.

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"Putin was furious," Browder said, according to The Atlantic. "Looking for wars to retaliate against American interests, he settled on the most sadistic and evil option of all: banning the adoption of Russian orphans by American families."

Browder added that Putin was concerned by the Magnitsky Act because of his immense wealth. "I estimate that he has accumulated $200 billion of ill-gotten gains from these types of operations over his 17 years in power. He keeps his money in the West and all of his money in the West is potentially exposed to asset freezes and confiscation. ... The second reason why Putin reacted so badly to the passage of the Magnitsky Act is that it destroys the promise of impunity he's given to all of his corrupt officials."

The Putin administration had unsuccessfully requested that Interpol issue an international warrant for Browder's arrest four separate times.

"This is going on because my role in their troubles just seems to be escalating. ... And their previous attempts to rein me in and get me back to Russia haven't worked," Browder told The New York Times on Oct. 22. "It went from tax evasion, to more tax evasion, to fraud and libel, and now its working its way up to murder."

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In their fifth request to Interpol, Russian prosecutors asserted that Browder himself had colluded with a British agent to kill Magnitsky by withholding medical treatment for a pancreas ailment. Interpol granted the latest request for a warrant and has not explained why.

Former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul took to social media to blast the State Department for revoking Browder's visa.

"This is outrageous," McFaul tweeted out. "[President Donald Trump], [State Department] et al, fix this now. Do not join Putin's campaign against [Bill Browder]."

In June 2016, Donald Trump Jr. and several prominent members of the Trump campaign met with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower in New York on the promise that she would provide compromising information about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Veselnitskaya is a prominent lobbyist against the Magnitsky Act.

Trump Jr. later stated that Veselnitskaya offered no information about Clinton but instead, "began discussing the adoption of Russian children and mentioned the Magnitsky Act."

Sources: The Atlantic, Business InsiderThe New York Times (2) / Featured Image: The Russian Presidential Press and Information Office via Wikimedia Commons / Embedded Images: Hudson Institute/Flickr, Kremlin via Wikimedia Commons

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