ST. PETERSBURG, March 20 (RIA Novosti) – Russia’s top investigator struck a defiant note Wednesday against an impending official US blacklist naming Russian officials suspected of rights abuses, saying he would be honored to be included.
Investigative Committee chief Alexander Bastrykin’s remarks come just weeks ahead of the publication of the so-called Magnitsky list, which will name officials to be targeted by diplomatic and financial sanctions.
Bastrykin says he believes he may be targeted in reprisal for his efforts to prosecute US parents suspected of mistreating adopted Russian children.
The Magnitsky Act was signed into law by President Barack Obama in December and is ostensibly designed to punish officials believed to be connected to the death in a Moscow jail of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in 2009.
The scope of the legislation, which envisions visa bans and the freezing of US assets for officials to be named in April, has been broadened since its inception to cover a whole range of suspected rights abusers.
“I would be very honored to be put on that list,” Bastrykin said at a meeting with law students in St. Petersburg. “I don’t see any particular problems for me and my colleagues.”
Bastrykin said that he was surprised his name was under consideration since his committee was not involved in the case against Magnitsky, but had only investigated the circumstances of his death.
The Investigative Committee on Tuesday dropped that investigation, saying it had determined no crime had taken place. Many rights groups say the death was the result of physical mistreatment and failure to provide medical treatment.
Magnitsky, who worked for UK-based equity fund Hermitage Capital, was arrested in 2008 on charges of tax evasion shortly after he accused Russian officials of involvement in a $230 million fraud.
In the wake of the adoption of the Magnitsky Act, Russia introduced a ban on Americans adopting Russian children – a decision seen widely as an act of retaliation.
Moscow said the ban was prompted by a spate of deaths among Russian children adopted by U.S. families.
Bastrykin said Wednesday that his committee has filed 22 criminal cases against US parents for the deaths.