Deputies want to deny entry to foreign officials who violate Russians’ rights

Deputies want to deny entry to foreign officials who violate Russians’ rights
A draft bill submitted to the State Duma would allow authorities to create “black lists” for foreigners who have violated the rights of Russian citizens in their countries.

­If adopted, the new legislation will allow law-enforcement agencies to deny entry to applicable officials and freeze their accounts in Russian banks, including those located abroad. The move could be Moscow’s response to politicians in the West who have recently called for tough measures against Russian officials involved in the Sergey Magnitsky case.  

Magnitsky, the lawyer for the Hermitage Capital Management Fund, was arrested for an alleged tax evasion scheme and died while in custody. The fund officials say it was he who uncovered the scheme involving police officials who had allegedly stolen over $170 million from the state budget, and was arrested soon thereafter.

The actions of officials and investigators in the case are being probed by the Russian Investigative Committee following a presidential order issued after Magnitsky’s death. Nevertheless, some politicians and the fund’s management have called on Western countries to punish Russian officials and investigators involved in the case by denying entry to them and freezing their bank accounts.  

Russia should take the same measures against some western officials, believes Igor Lebedev, head of the Liberal Democratic Party faction in the State Duma. It would be an appropriate response to the actions “taken by the West, including the US Department of State, which ‘blacklists’  certain Russian citizens, including judges and law enforcement officials,” he told Interfax on Tuesday.  

The legislation will concern those Western officials who have violated the rights of Russian citizens abroad and inflicted property or moral damage to them. According to Lebedev, representatives of all four factions in the parliament’s lower house have signed the submitted bill.   

Konstantin Kosachev, head of the Duma Foreign Affairs Committee, earlier said the Russian legislation can be amended and sanctions introduced against officials violating the rights of Russian citizens in their countries. He believes it would be expedient to give rights to deputies and the Russian human rights ombudsman to ask for measures against foreign officials, specifically those from the US, who are involved in violating the rights of Russian citizens.

The range of sanctions against foreign officials should be discussed, Kosachev said, but he cited the denial of entry into Russia and the freezing of investment and financial assets as the most likely options.

Maksim Minchenko, a deputy from United Russia, specified his claims to the US officials, saying that sanctions should be taken against those involved in the cases of Viktor Bout, Konstantin Yaroshchenko, Yegor Chernov, and other Russian citizens who are currently being held in US custody.

It seems that the Duma deputies may try to “mirror” any sanctions whenever they are taken by the European or US authorities against Russian officials, judges, prosecutors or investigators involved first and foremost in the cases of Magnitsky or former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky. But so far, no specific legal moves have been taken against Russian officials in the West.

Meanwhile, it became known on Monday that the case against the head of the Hermitage Capital Management Fund, William Browder might soon be dropped in Russia. He had also reportedly been taken off Russia's most-wanted list. The businessman has been accused of tax evasion.