Kremlin says US blacklist of officials will damage US-Russia relations

‘Magnitsky List’ drawn up in response to jail death of Russian lawyer

Lawyer Sergei Magnitsky: allegedly beaten to death in a Moscow jail cell.

Lawyer Sergei Magnitsky: allegedly beaten to death in a Moscow jail cell.

Sat, Apr 13, 2013, 07:33

The Kremlin has warned Washington that publication of a list of Russians officials who are subject to US sanctions due to involvement in alleged rights abuses will damage relations between the countries.

Washington was poised last night to unveil its so-called Magnitsky List, which is named after Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer who was allegedly beaten to death in a Moscow jail cell in 2009.

Mr Magnitsky accused tax and police officials of conspiring to seize control of part of investment firm Hermitage Capital, and then using its documents to illegally claim tax rebates of some €170 million from the Russian state.

After lodging his complaint with the Russian authorities, Mr Magnitsky was arrested and charged with fraud by some of the men whom he had accused.

He died in pre-trial detention at the age of 37. Officials said he suffered a heart attack, but the Kremlin’s own human rights council said he had been denied treatment for medical problems for almost a year and was probably beaten to death.

Posthumous trial
Russia last month closed the investigation into how Mr Magnitsky died, saying there was no evidence of a crime. He is still being tried posthumously, however, in what is believed to be the first ever trial of its kind in Russia.

“The appearance of any lists will doubtless have a very negative effect on bilateral Russian-American relations,” said Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin.

Russian and US media reports suggest powerful figures in the Russian security services and judicial system will be on Washington’s list of those who are banned from entering the US and could have US assets frozen.

If the White House publishes the list, Moscow plans in retaliation to unveil its own list of US officials who are barred from entering Russia.

“Of course, Moscow will react and our American partners know about that very well,” said Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.

Bad timing
“And given the circumstances, I don’t think they’ve chosen very good timing, since the American national security adviser is coming to Moscow to bring President [Barack] Obama’s message with his vision for the prospects of our broader cooperation.”

The US national security adviser Tom Donilon is due to hold talks in Moscow on Monday.
l Meanwhile, Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili, has denounced plans revealed by the country’s government to investigate how he handled the 2008 Georgia-Russia war. He said he would not co-operate with an investigation that would give Russia justification for its “invasion” of Georgia.