Moscow mulls retaliation over more-than-Magnitsky blacklist

With the incoming US ambassador to Russia revealing that the US has blacklisted more Russian officials than initially thought, Russia’s Foreign Ministry is insisting it reserves the right to retaliate.

Its entry ban applies not only to those implicated in the death of Sergey Magnitsky, but also to any Russian official regarded by the US as having violated human rights.

“For those in Russia who abuse human rights, we have taken measures to ensure that they cannot travel to the United States,” the new US ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, said in an address to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. “We have done so both for government officials implicated in the wrongful death of Russian lawyer Sergey Magnitsky, but also in other cases in which gross violations of human rights occurred.”

McFaul’s statement comes shortly after US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner told the Ekho Moskvy radio station that the US government will not support the Magnitsky blacklist which Congress proposed in April, but that those who violated human rights may be denied entrance to the United States.

Among those reportedly blacklisted by the US for involvement in the Magnitsky case are over 60 high-ranking officials from such state agencies as the Federal Security Service, the Federal Tax Service and the Prosecutor’s Office, as well as judicial officials. Officers from the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ Investigative Committee top the list. Their close relatives will be subject to the same restrictions.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, is drafting its own blacklist, Vedomosti newspaper reported, citing anonymous sources. The country’s blacklist of American citizens would include those involved in the Viktor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko cases.

Magnitsky, a 37-year-old lawyer for Hermitage Capital Management Fund, was arrested by Russian authorities on charges of alleged tax evasion, and died of a heart attack while in a Moscow pre-trial detention facility on November 16, 2009. The fund maintained that the real reason for his detention was that he had uncovered a multi-million-dollar corruption scheme involving high-ranking state officials.

Russia’s Presidential Council for Human Rights held an independent investigation into the case, saying that the head of the pre-trial detention center, together with the investigators who had conducted the probe into allegations of tax fraud, deliberately prevented Magnitsky from receiving medical treatment, namely by refusing to transfer the inmate to a different prison with better conditions and a higher quality of medical care.

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