Russia blacklists US officials in response to Magnitsky list – paper
The Russian newspaper Kommersant Daily reported on Wednesday that the Russian Foreign Ministry has prepared a symmetrical reply to the so called Magnitsky List introduced by the US State Department in July of this year. The Russian list will not be disclosed, but the newspaper quoted an unnamed source as saying that there were several dozen names on it and they were all people connected with the cases of the Russian citizens Viktor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko, who are both currently on trial in the USA.At the same time, the Interfax news agency reported on Wednesday afternoon that its own source in the Foreign Ministry said that the list of the US citizens who will be denied entry to Russia is yet to be finalized. “There is no final draft yet. In accordance with the president’s order, we are working on adequate response measures,” the source said. He added that the measures could include a list of US officials who violate the rights of Russian citizens, but the question was still being worked out. “Over the past few years, we have repeatedly witnessed blatant violations of the rights of Russian citizens with the application of American law to Russian citizens and companies in an extraterritorial manner. This is all inadmissible and must not be left unanswered,” the source said.Sergey Magnitsky died in a pre-trial detention center, where he had been put on suspicion of carrying out a tax evasion scheme worth millions of dollars. Magnitsky’s employer, the Hermitage Capital Management Fund, claimed that Russian investigators and prison officials had pressured Magnitsky in an attempt to get information, which ultimately led to the lawyer’s death. Hermitage’s PR efforts compelled the US administration’s move to blacklist Russian officials allegedly complicit in the crime from entering the United States.Russia sharply criticized the US decision, saying that it was an attempt to influence Russia’s justice system and was not becoming of political allies.At the same time, Russia admitted that Magnitsky’s death was a tragedy and made several important changes after it – from legislative amendments that do not allow arrest to be used as a preventive measure for economic crimes, to the dismissal of several top ranking officials in the Justice Ministry that manages Russian prisons and pre-trial detention centers. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has also ordered an independent investigation by the Human Rights Council.The two Russians named in the Kommersant reports are currently on trial in the US on separate cases – Konstantin Yaroshenko is a pilot who is charged with drug trafficking, while Viktor Bout is the owner of a transport company who has been accused of illegally dealing arms. Both men were detained outside the United States (Yaroshenko in Liberia and Bout in Thailand) and were then extradited to the United States to face trial. They both continue to maintain their innocence.