Russia has published a blacklist of US officials banned from entering the country in retaliation to a Washington sanction against 18 Russians and Chechens accused of committing human rights abuses.
“The war of lists is not our choice, but we cannot ignore outright blackmail,” the Russian foreign ministry said on Saturday in a statement, which included a list of 18 US officials “implicated in human rights violations”.
The list released by the US Treasury on Friday names 16 Russians allegedly linked to the death of jailed lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, as well as two Chechens tied to other alleged rights abuses, all of whom are now barred from travelling to the US or holding assets there under the 2012 Sergei Magnitsky Act.
The measure has infuriated Moscow, which had warned that it would retaliate with a similar measure.
Russia’s 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.
Russia’s list includes John Yoo, a former US Justice Department official who wrote legal memos authorising harsh interrogation techniques; David Addington, the chief of staff for former Vice President Dick Cheney; and two former commanders of the Guantanamo Bay detention centre.
Fourteen more people are named as having violated the rights of Russian citizens abroad, including the 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.
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 $230m fraud scheme.
The case has prompted a crisis in US-Russia ties.
“The 2009 death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in pretrial detention in Moscow was a tragedy, and the investigation into his death has yielded no visible result,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on Friday.
“Russian officials implicated directly in Magnitsky’s imprisonment and prison officials directly involved in decisions that led to his death remain unpunished.”
Those named on Washington’s list will be subject to visa bans and asset freezes in the US.