Moscow will introduce a number of tough retaliatory measures if Washington passes the so-called Magnitsky List bill, potentially blacklisting several dozen Russian officials from entering to the United States, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Friday.
“If this outrageous move takes place, Moscow’s reaction will be complex, multidimensional and really tough,” Ryabkov said, adding that Moscow hoped “the worst thing [the adoption of the Magnitsky list] will not happen.”
Ryabkov’s comment comes four days before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations votes on the bill which was passed by the House of Representatives on June 7.
The Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, with amendments, seeks to impose visa bans and asset freezes on the Russian officials involved in the alleged torture and murder of 37-year-old Russian anti-corruption lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, as well as in other gross human rights abuses in Russia.
Speaking about the relations between Russia and the U.S. in connection with the controversial bill, Ryabkov said that there would be “negative consequences for the whole complex of the Russian-U.S. relations” since the bill was an example of the “inadmissible” extraterritorial legislation.
The U.S. National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) has earlier urged the Congress to oppose the legislation as it would most likely hurt Russia – U.S. trade and badly damage ties.
Magnitsky was arrested on tax evasion charges in November 2008, just days after accusing police investigators in a $230 million tax refund fraud, and died after almost a year in the Matrosskaya Tishina pre-trial detention center in Moscow.
A probe into his death revealed that the lawyer, who was suffering from untreated pancreatitis and a heart condition, did not receive proper medical treatment. Rights activists pointed to multiple violations of the lawyer’s rights during his arrest and detention, including signs that he was beaten by prison guards hours before his death.
The U.S. State Department issued visa bans on several dozen Russian officials in connection to the Magnitsky case in July 2011. In response, Russia has imposed travel bans on several U.S. officials.
The Magnitsky case, along with the Jackson-Vanik amendment and the rift over the Syrian crisis, is a major stumbling block in the “reset” of U.S.-Russian relations.