The U.S. and Russia exchanged new blows in their shadow boxing, releasing blacklists of each other’s nationals accused of alleged human rights abuses.
Within hours of Washington publishing a list of 18 Russians who will be barred from entering the U.S. and have their assets frozen, Moscow struck back with its own list of 18 Americans subject to similar sanctions.
The U.S. blacklist has been compiled under the so-called Magnitsky Act passed last year. It was named after Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in prison after blowing the whistle on a multimillion tax scam organised by corrupt Russian officials. Russia retaliated by adopting an “anti-Magnitsky” law that mirrored U.S. sanctions and also banned American adoptions of Russian orphans.
The Russian list includes former U.S. officials related to the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base and law enforcement authorities involved in the prosecution of two Russian nationals accused of trafficking weapons and drugs.
End of ‘reset’
Moscow has slammed the “Magnitsky list”, which includes officials blamed for the Russian lawyer’s imprisonment and death, as a severe blow to bilateral ties.
“Under pressure from Russophobic members of the U.S. Congress, a powerful blow has been dealt to bilateral relations and mutual trust,” said the Foreign Ministry.
A Russian parliamentarian said the U.S. sanctions list had killed off the “reset” launched by U.S. President Barack Obama four years ago.
“The Magnitsky Act and list… irrevocably bury the idea and concept of a reset in relations between the U.S. and Russia,” Alexei Pushkov, head of the International Committee of the State Duma, told the RIA Novosti.
He noted the U.S. limited the list to 18 persons, compared with 280 proposed by “hawkish” Congressmen, to avoid aggravating the crisis, ahead of a visit by Mr. Obama’s National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, who arrives in Moscow on Monday.