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Russia lashes out at U.S. human rights blacklist

By Ben Brumfield and Elise Labott, CNN
updated 12:06 PM EDT, Sat April 13, 2013
President Obama signs legislation in December that would punish officials tied to the death of Sergei Magnitsky in Moscow.
President Obama signs legislation in December that would punish officials tied to the death of Sergei Magnitsky in Moscow.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Russia answers a U.S. human rights law with revenge sanctions on 18 Americans
  • The U.S. law already drew an angry response when signed into law in December
  • Friday, Washington published a list of alleged Russian human rights abusers
  • Russia's blacklist includes members of a New York district court and FBI and a DEA agent

Washington (CNN) -- A day after the United States published a blacklist of alleged Russian human rights abusers, whom Washington slapped with personal sanctions, the Kremlin answered with a list of its own. It slaps alleged American rights violators with similar sanctions, official Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported Saturday.

The U.S. list is part of a December 2012 law, the Magnitsky Act, which imposes visa bans and freezes assets of Russian officials believed to be connected to the death of whistleblower Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who uncovered the country's largest known tax fraud.

U.S. releases blacklist tied to alleged Russia rights abuses

Magnitsky was allegedly beaten to death in detention, a claim which Russian authorities dispute. The new law has been a thorn in the side of Moscow, which banned U.S. adoption of Russian children shortly after it passed.

Washington's blacklist, published Friday, contains 18 names. The Russian list also contains 18 and is a conscious, incensed reply to the U.S. list. Russian news agency Interfax published the names of Americans on Moscow's list. It includes an FBI agent, a DEA agent and officials at a New York district court.

"This war of lists was not our decision, but we do not have the right to ignore such open blackmail," Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement according to RIA Novosti. It accused the United States of basing its relationship with Russia on "mentorship."

Washington's blacklist includes people said to be linked to the Magnitsky case, including senior officials in the Russian interior ministry, prosecutors, judges, prison officials and tax officers.

The people on Russia's mirror list have a connection to the U.S. detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, RIA Novosti reported. It also includes Americans who were allegedly "involved in the abduction and removal to other countries of Russian citizens and in threats to their lives and health."

More on the Magnitsky Act

An additional, classified list, which was submitted to the U.S. Congress, includes people who are subject only to the travel ban.

Other blacklisted names were tied to other high profile cases.

One was accused in the 2006 shooting death of a Chechen man who filed claims against Moscow with the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg for human rights violations in Chechnya.

The other is believed to have played a part in the 2004 murder of American Paul Klebnikov, the editor of Forbes' magazine's Russian edition, in what was viewed as an attempt to quash investigative journalism in the country.

A senior State Department official told reporters the list was the product of an investigation based on information from non-governmental organizations and other information made available to the United States.

The official said the rigorous standards used to develop this list were similar to those used to designate individuals and companies on other U.S. blacklists. Additional names would be added to the blacklist, should more information become available, the official said.

Absent from the list were certain Russian officials close to President Vladimir Putin.

But the senior State Department official said "political considerations" in the U.S. relationship with Russia were "not a factor" and that additional names could be added to the blacklist, should additional information become available.

Russian reactions

President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Friday that the U.S. blacklist would have a "very negative effect on bilateral Russian-American relations."

But he appeared to play down the long-term impact, saying ties between Moscow and Washington were multifaceted and still had potential for growth.

Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, warned Friday that the publication of the list risked overshadowing the visit of National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, who is scheduled to visit Moscow on Monday.

"The choice of timing was not entirely favorable," Lavrov said, considering Donilon's visit is meant to address the broad aspects of the U.S.-Russia relationship. If the list is published, we will react and our American partners know that."

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