Moscow draws up blacklist of U.S. officials in response to Magnitsky list

Moscow has prepared a blacklist of U.S. officials who will be banned from travelling to Russia in response to a U.S. blacklist of Russian officials linked to the controversial death of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in detention, Russian daily Kommersant reported on Wednesday.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered the Foreign Ministry to respond to the unfriendly move by the United States, who have imposed visa bans and frozen U.S. assets of the Russian officials without notifying Russia, in late July.

Magnitsky, a lawyer for Hermitage Capital investment fund, died in November 2009 after almost a year in Moscow’s notorious Matrosskaya Tishina pretrial detention center. He was detained on tax evasion charges shortly after announcing he had uncovered massive fraud by police investigators.

In July, a Kremlin rights council said his death was likely to have been the result of a beating and that the charges against him were fraudulent. Human rights activists and his former colleagues allege the officers he had accused were involved in his death, which was originally said to have been the result of “heart failure.”

The Russian blacklist consists of several dozen U.S. officials, including those linked to the trials of Russian businessman Viktor Bout, who is prosecuted in the United States on charges of arms trafficking, and Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot convicted of drug dealing in the United States, Kommersant said, quoting unidentified officials.

The names from the list will not be disclosed, one of the officials told the paper. “The Americans have not published their [lists], and we will also not publish them,” he said.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Kommersant that a “draft” blacklist of U.S. officials was being discussed, which included “people linked to problems in Russian-U.S. relations, including those on humanitarian tracks.”

“Any U.S. citizen responsible for violating the rights of Russian citizens may be included in this list,” Ryabkov said. He described the U.S. move to introduce sanctions against the Russian officials as a significant blow to bilateral relations.

Another source was quoted by Kommersant as saying that the Foreign Ministry had been considering the blacklist since December last year, when indications appeared that the United States was preparing sanctions against Russian officials over the Magnitsky case.

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