The United States has published a list of 18 people it has banned from the country, 16 of whom are linked to the case of Russian whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky who died in custody in 2009.
The 37-year-old lawyer’s family and friends say he was beaten in jail and denied medical treatment. The US law named after him has complicated relations with Moscow.
Several on the list are accused of involvement in Magnitsky’s jailing or a cover-up after his death.
“We will use the tools in the Magnitsky Act and other available legal authorities to ensure that persons responsible for the maltreatment and death of Mr. Magnitsky are barred from travelling to the United States and doing business here,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney.
Democratic Representative James McGovern, one of the sponsors of the Magnitsky Act, called the list “timid” with significant omissions. Not on the list but named by the US law for “wrongdoing” is Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-backed leader of Russia’s Chechnya region.
Moscow has accused the US of outside interference. But it notes that the list is much smaller than one put forward by US politicians.
“We know that the Congress, especially Congressman McGovern, suggested to have 280 people on the list, and the fact the Obama administration did not go that far, did not accept the suggestion of Mr McGovern, shows that the Obama administration wants to limit the damage which the Magnitsky law and the Magnitsky list are definitely bringing to the relationship with Russia,” said Alexey Pushkov, Chairman of the Duma Foreign Relations Committee .
The publication of the US blacklist comes just days before President Obama’s National Security Adviser Tom Donilon is due in Moscow for talks that Russia says will include American missile defence plans.
Sergei Magnitsky was accused of tax evasion after he had accused police officials of tax offences. Even after his death he was put on trial. It was opened and adjourned in March.