Moscow has banned 18 Americans from entering Russia, accusing them of committing human rights violations. The move comes after the US Treasury Department blacklisted 18 Russians over the death of a lawyer.
The Russian Foreign Ministry imposed entry bans on several officials from the George W. Bush administration on Saturday. The move comes in retaliation for a US blacklist against several Russians allegedly tied to the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in pretrial detention.
"The war of lists is not our choice, but we cannot ignore outright blackmail," the Foreign Ministry said in a press release, saying the 18 US officials were "implicated in human rights violations."
The list included former officials such as John Yoo, who served in the Justice Department during the Bush administration and wrote legal memos authorizing torture. David Addington, former Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, and two commanders of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center were also on the list.
"Unlike the American list, which is formed arbitrarily, our list primarily includes those who are implicated in legalization of torture and perpetual detentions in Guantanamo prison, to the arrests and kidnapping of Russian citizens," the ministry said in its press release.
"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," the ministry added.
On Friday, the US Treasury Department published a list of 16 Russians who have been banned from traveling to the US or holding assets in the country. The blacklist stems from the 2012 Magnitsky act, which was passed by Congress in response to the death of the eponymous human rights lawyer. Two Chechens, accused of murdering a government critic and US journalist respectively, were also blacklisted.
The act required the Obama administration to draw up an initial list by Saturday of people linked to the Magnitsky case or other alleged "gross violations of internationally recognized human rights" in Russia.
Magnitsky was detained after accusing two Interior Ministry officials of embezzling $230 million (175 million euros) from the state. He was subsequently detained on charges of tax evasion and died in prison in 2009 after serving 11 months.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevicvh said on Saturday that the US blacklist dealt "a strong blow to bilateral relations and joint trust."
slk/tm (AP, AFP, Reuters)