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TRADE BARRIER HELPS PUTIN

Leading members of the Russian political opposition are urging Congress to repeal a Cold War-era trade amendment they say is helping President-elect Vladimir Putin and undermining democratic reform.

In an open letter published in Moscow, the seven opposition leaders said the 1974 Jackson-Vanik amendment also hurts Russia’s ability to compete in international markets and increases the country’s reliance on oil and other fossil fuels controlled by Mr. Putin and his cronies.

“Some politicians in the United States argue that the removal of Russia from Jackson-Vanik would help no one but the current Russian undemocratic political regime. That assumption is flat wrong,” they said.

“At the end of the day, those who defend the argument that Jackson-Vanik’s provisions should still apply to Russia in order to punish Putin’s anti-democratic regime only darken Russia’s political future, hamper its economic development, and frustrate its democratic aspirations.”

The U.S. trade barrier was established to punish the Soviet Union for refusing to allow Jewish citizens to immigrate.

The letter was signed by: Sergey Aleksashenko, Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Ryzhkov of the People’s Freedom Party; Alexander Lebedev, an independent businessman and politician; Vladimir Milov, leader of the Democratic Choice movement; Alexey Navalny, a lawyer and civic activist; and Ilya Ponomarev of the party A Just Russia.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.