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Russia bans former US ambassador from entering

The ex-US diplomat said Moscow placed on a sanctions list in retaliation for similar moves by Washington. But Russia said he had been banned due to his "active participation" in destroying American-Russian relations.

Michael McFaul, a former US ambassador to Russia, on Friday said Moscow banned him from traveling to the country in response to US bans on senior Russian officials.

"I was told that I am on the Kremlin's sanctions list because of my close affiliation with Obama. I will take that as a compliment! The US sanctioned Russians close to Putin," McFaul said in a tweet.

McFaul, who served as the US ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014, said he found out while applying for a visa to help defeated presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's transition to the White House.

"I probably have been on the travel ban list since 2014, in response to US sanctions. Just found out now because I sought to apply for a visa," he noted.

'Distinguished list'

A Russian foreign ministry source told the state-owned TASS news agency that McFaul had been banned due to his "active participation in the destruction of the bilateral relationship and relentless lobbying in favor of a campaign to pressure Russia."

The Kremlin witnessed strained relations with McFaul due to his contacts with members of the Russian opposition.

Andriy Shevchenko, Ukraine's ambassador to Canada, lauded McFaul for being placed on the Russian sanctions list.

"Welcome to the very distinguished list of decent people, Michael McFaul! Thank you for your firm commitment to the right cause," Shevchenko said in a tweet.

Relations between Moscow and Washington have hit Cold War-lows following Russia's illegal annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and its military intervention in Syria to prop up President Bashar al-Assad's government.

ls/rc (AP, Reuters)

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