The Obama administration has blacklisted 18 Russians for human rights violations in relation to the case of deceased lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. The move could cause further friction between Washington and Moscow.
The US Treasury on Tuesday released the names of 16 Moscow prosecutors, investigators, tax officials and judges linked to the Magnitsky case. Two Chechens tied to other alleged rights violations were also on the list.
The list was part of a law passed last year, named after Russian human rights lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. Magnitsky died in 2009 after 11 months in Russian jails. He was arrested for tax evasion in 2008 after he exposed massive theft of state assets by Russian officials. He died in prison after allegedly being beaten and denied medical treatment.
Included on the list were Artem Kuznetsov and Pavel Karpov, two Interior Ministry officials who imprisoned Magnitsky after he accused them of stealing $230 million (175 million euros) from the state. Tax officials accused of approving fraudulent tax refunds, as well as other Interior Ministry officials accused of persecuting Magnitsky, were also on the list.
The US Treasury also named Moscow judges Aleksey Krivoruchko, Sergei Podoprigorov, Yelena Stashina and Svetlana Ukhnalyova, who were involved in Magnitsky's detention.
Two men from Chechnya, Letscha Bogatirov and Kazbek Dukuzov, were also blacklisted. Bogatirov was accused of killing a critic of Chechnya's Moscow-backed leader Ramzan Kadyrov in 2009, while Dukuzov was arrested, tried and exonerated in the 2004 murder of US journalist Paul Klebnikov in Moscow.
List required by Magnitsky Act
The Magnitsky Act was passed by the US Congress last year and was linked to laws normalizing trade relations with Russia. But it was immediately criticized by Moscow, which days later announced it was banning US adoptions of Russian children.
The act requires 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.
US Representative James McGovern, a leading sponsor of the Magnitsky Act, called the list "timid" with "significant omissions." Senior officials from President Vladimir Putin's entourage were not in the list, as some rights groups had hoped they would be.
Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Washington's actions could damage future relations between Russia and the US.
"The appearance of some lists will unquestionably have a very negative impact on Russian-US bilateral relations," news agencies quoted him as saying.
dr/ch (AP, AFP, Reuters)