Former Bush staffers and Guantanamo Bay commanders on list released in response to US Treasury visa bans
Moscow listed 18 Americans who are banned from entering Russia in an announcement Saturday – a tit-for-tat measure that comes a day after Washington imposed similar sanctions. The list, which was released by the Russian Foreign Ministry, includes staffers in the Bush administration and two former commanders of Guantanamo Bay.
On Friday, the US Treasury announced financial sanctions and visa bans on 18 Russian officials, the majority of whom were implicated over the arrest and death of the corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. Magnitsky died in a Russian prison in 2009, after being arrested by the same officers he was investigating over a $230m fraud. He was reportedly beaten and denied medical treatment while behind bars.
The case sparked an outcry in the US and led to the passage of a controversial bill requiring Washington to impose sanctions against those deemed responsible for the Russian whistleblower's death. The Magnitsky Act, which was signed into law last year, led to immediate counter measures by Moscow, which imposed a ban on US adoption of Russian children.
The Russian and American lists exclude senior figures, but will nonetheless further damage any chance of a "reset" on relations, which President Barack Obama has stated to be his aim.
Among those singled out by Washington for sanction are two police officers, Pavel Karpov and Artyom Kuznetsov, and a former tax official, Olga Stepanova. Magnitsky was arrested after linking the three to a tax fraud scheme. Of the 18 people named by the US Treasury, 16 are connected to the Magnitsky case. The other two were included in relation to the shooting death of a former bodyguard to the Chechen president, Ramzan Kadyrov, and the murder of a journalist, Paul Klebnikov.
The list published in Moscow includes John Yoo, a former US Justice Department official who wrote legal memos authorising harsh interrogation techniques, and David Addington, the chief of staff for former vice-president Dick Cheney. Two former commanders of Guantanamo Bay, retired Major General Geoffrey Miller and Admiral Jeffrey Harbeson, were also named. In addition, there were 14 Americans whom Russia claims violated the rights of Russians abroad. The list includes several current or former federal prosecutors in the case of Viktor Bout, a Russian arms merchant who was sentenced in 2012 to 25 years in prison, for selling weapons to a US-designated foreign terrorist group.
There is also a private list of banned Americans. The Magnitsky Act also provides for the US administration to compile a closed list of Russian officials subject to visa bans.
Russia's deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, was quoted Saturday as saying that the two countries' lists differed in fundamental aspects. "On the Russian list, including the closed part, are people actually responsible for the legalisation of torture and indefinite detention of prisoners in Guantanamo, for arrests and unjust sentences for our countrymen," he reportedly said.
The latest exchange between Moscow and Washington comes ahead of a visit to Russia by the White House's national security adviser, Tom Donilon, later this month.
After announcing the US list on Friday, a State Department official stressed that the administration was merely "complying with its legislative requirements". "Our approach to Russia is to seek co-operation on matters of mutual interest while speaking openly about our differences," acting deputy spokesperson Patrick Ventrell said.
David Batty, Conal Urquhart 14 Apr, 2013
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