Russia on Saturday published its own blacklist of US officials banned from entering the country in retaliation for Washington blocking 18 Russians over alleged human rights abuses.
“The war of lists is not our choice, but we cannot ignore outright blackmail,” said the Russian foreign ministry in a statement, which includes a list of 18 US officials “implicated in human rights violations.”
On Friday the US Treasury released a list barring 16 Russians allegedly linked to the death of jailed human rights lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, as well as two Chechens tied to other alleged rights abuses, from travelling to the US or holding assets there under the 2012 Sergei Magnitsky Act.
The measure has infuriated Moscow, which had vowed to retaliate with a similar measure. The foreign ministry on Saturday called the Magnitsky Act an “absurd” law that “intervenes in our domestic affairs” and “delivers a strong blow to bilateral relations.”
“Unlike the American list, which is formed arbitrarily, our list primarily includes those who are implicated in legalisation of torture and perpetual detentions in Guantanamo prison, to the arrests and kidnapping of Russian citizens,” the ministry said.
“It’s time for Washington politicians to finally understand that there are no prospects in building relations with a country like Russia with the spirit of mentoring and undisguised dictating,” it said.
The list names four people allegedly implicated in Guantanamo abuses, including David Spears Addington, who served as chief of staff under former vice president Dick Cheney.
Fourteen more people are named as having violated the rights of Russian citizens abroad, including US district judge Jed Rakoff and several prosecutors from his district in the state of New York, as well as several Drug Enforcement Administration officers and FBI agent Gregory Coleman.
Senior lawmaker Alexei Pushkov, who chairs the Russian Duma lower house foreign affairs committee, announced a “visa war” on his Twitter blog.
“The reset is dead,” he wrote minutes after the ministry announcement, referring to the US-Russia policy of resetting relations launched in 2009.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the Itar-TASS news agency that the Russian blacklist also includes a secret section which has more names, similar to the list of more highly placed Russian officials compiled by Washington.
“The list … also has a closed section,” Ryabkov said. “The Americans know about its existence.”
Sergei Magnitsky died in pre-trial detention in 2009 at the age of 37 after being arrested and charged by the very same officials he had accused of organising a $230-million fraud scheme.
The case has come to symbolise the Kremlin’s failure to crack down on corruption and has prompted a crisis in US-Russia ties.
Moscow reacted with anger when the Magnitsky Act was passed last year under which scores of Russians — whose names have not been released publically — were hit with sanctions and blacklisted from receiving a visa to the United States
In retaliation Russia passed a law which punishes alleged US rights abusers, but also includes a clause banning adoption of Russian children by Americans.
President Vladimir Putin justified the legislation by the need to respond to a “purely political, unfriendly act” which has “sacrificed Russian-American relations.”
The law, and the adoption ban, went into effect on January 1 despite massive protests in Russia and international criticism.