Russian Foreign Ministry should not overreact to U.S. State Department ‘black lists’

Russia should limit the Foreign Ministry’s reaction to the introduction of U.S. State Department “black lists” of Russian officials allegedly linked to the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in a pre-trial detention center in November 2009, a Russian top deputy official said.

Earlier this week the United States imposed visa bans on Russian officials allegedly involved in Magnitsky’s death. The restrictions were imposed without an official notification to Russia. Apart from visa restrictions, the United States has also frozen American assets of Russian officials involved in the lawyer’s death.

“If this document [on visa restrictions] exists, then we will actually see it with our own eyes,” First Deputy of Russia’s International Affairs Committee Leonid Slutsky said. “In this case, I think, it is worth limiting the Russian Foreign Ministry reaction. The Foreign Ministry’s rhetoric will be pretty tough and, as in most cases, it [the ministry] will react to this situation adequately.”

Magnitsky, a former lawyer for Hermitage Capital investment fund, died after almost a year in Moscow’s notorious Matrosskaya Tishina pretrial detention center in November 2009.

Last year, the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee voted unanimously to ban entry to the EU for 60 officials allegedly tied to Magnitsky’s death.

Magnitsky had been arrested on tax evasion charges just days after claiming that police investigators had stolen $230 million from the state. Some of the police he had accused of embezzling from the state were responsible for his arrest.

Earlier this month the Russian Investigative Committee accused Magnitsky’s doctor at the pretrail detention center, Larisa Litvinova, and former chief medical officer Dmitry Kratov of negligence leading to the lawyer’s death. They may receive up to five years in jail if found guilty.

Magnitsky’s death caused an international outcry from world human rights organizations and the business community.

President Dmitry Medvedev, for whom the Magnitsky case has been seen as a test of his pledge to battle corruption, said earlier that the lawyer’s death was “a crime.”

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