The so-called Magnitsky list that bars entry to the U.S. for Russian officials allegedly involved in the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, will not undermine relations between the two countries, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday.
The relations established by the Obama and Medvedev administrations are strong enough to withstand “various attempts to ruin them,” Lavrov told three Russian radio stations.
“I am sure, that the ‘Magnitsky list’… won’t undermine the foundations of Russia-US relations,” he said.
Magnitsky was arrested and jailed without trial in November 2008, and died in police custody a year later after being denied medical care. The 37-year-old lawyer was working for Hermitage Capital Management, a British-based investment fund, when he accused tax and police officials of carrying out a $230-million tax scam.
In July 2011, the U.S. State Department banned visas for about 60 Russian officials over their involvement in the detention and death of Magnitsky.
To some extent, the introduction of this list is an attempt to “interfere into Russia’s domestic affairs” and “undermine the political line, held by President Obama,” Lavrov continued. “Perhaps, the authors of this list are more interested in the U.S. pre-election contest than in the essence of the problem.”
Lavrov also emphasized that the guilt of the people featured in the “Magnitsky list” has not been proven. “In fact, they are trying to decide for us who is guilty…We do not have the right to disrespect our legal system, and none of our western partners has the right to…force on us decisions that only our legal system can take.”
In a report in July, the Kremlin’s rights body concluded that Magnitsky, a father-of-two, suffered deliberate neglect and beatings before dying in his cell.
In August, prosecutors charged two prison physicians over the lawyer’s death, but rights activists have expressed fears the doctors might be scapegoats and were targeted to allow more senior figures to avoid prosecution.
Magnitsky’s death has highlighted the increasing number of fatalities involving remand prisoners in Russia. Over the past three weeks, there have been at least three prison deaths, one involving a former executive at the defunct Yukos and another a Moscow headmaster.