Russia publishes its answer to Magnitsky list

Russia has published its own list of US officials banned from Russia in response to the US’s list of Russian officials facing visa and financial sanctions under the Magnitsky Act, Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on its website on Saturday.

“We would like to draw particular information to the fact that, unlike the American list compiled arbitrarily, our list features primarily those implicated in torture and the indefinite detention of prisoners in the [US] Guantanamo prison camp, as well as those involved in the abduction and removal to other countries of Russian citizens and in threats to their lives and health,” the statement said.

“This war of lists was not our decision, but we do not have the right to ignore such open blackmail,” it continued. “It’s time for the politicians in Washington to finally realize that it is fruitless to base a relationship with a country such as Russia on an attitude of mentorship and overt dictation.”

Like the US list, the Russian list comprises 18 names. Four are listed as having been connected with the US’s infamous Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba, which has seen numerous allegations of abuse and torture by prisoners and rights groups. The rest of the US officials on the list are mostly described as prosecutors and special agents, and are accused of having violated the rights of Russians abroad.

The US list, which lists Russians that Washington deems complicit in human rights abuses, was published on Friday. The Russians listed will be unable to enter the US and any assets they own there will be frozen.

Sixteen of the officials on the US list are individuals that the US government and Russian rights activists accuse of involvement in the 2009 death of Russian whistleblowing tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, after whom the US law is named.These include investigators and officials in the Russian Interior Ministry, the Prosecutor General’s Office and Investigative Committee - as well as Russian tax and prison officials and judges - that Magnitsky’s supporters accuse of orchestrating a US$ 230 million tax fraud purportedly uncovered by the lawyer, who died in disputed circumstances in a Moscow pretrial detention facility in 2009.

The Magnitsky Act was signed into law by US President Barack Obama on Dec. 14 and is ostensibly designed to punish officials believed to be connected to Magnitsky’s death. The scope of the legislation was later broadened to cover a whole range of suspected rights abusers.

The strongly worded statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs came the day after Alexei Pushkov, head of the Russian State Duma’s international affairs committee, said the Magnitsky Act effectively “buries the idea and the concept” of the so-called “reset” policy of US-Russia ties undertaken by Obama and former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in 2009.

The US law “will be present, possibly, for a very long time in our relations and will poison them,” Pushkov said.

Philippines News agency