Washington to Release Magnitsky Blacklist Today

Memorial Flowers and Photo of Sergei Magnitsky

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – April 12, 2013)

The Kremlin was bracing for the release late Friday of a U.S. blacklist of more than 100 Russians that could include Investigative Committee chief Alexander Bastrykin and Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.

At the same time, the authorities were preparing to release their own blacklist with an equal number of U.S. citizens.

Washington was expected to release its blacklist at 2 p.m. (10 p.m. Moscow time). The list, required under the Magnitsky Act signed into law in December, aims to punish Russian officials implicated of human rights violations by barring their entry into the U.S. and depriving them of U.S.-based assets.

President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman acknowledged Friday that the release of the blacklists would further strain relations between the two countries.

“The appearance of any kind of blacklist will, of course, have a negative impact on Russian-U.S. relations,” Peskov said.

But he stressed that the governments still had many areas where they could strengthen cooperation. “Therefore there will always be topics to discuss,” he told reporters in the Far East city of Blagoveshchensk, where Putin was attending events to mark the 62nd anniversary of the Soviet Union sending the first man into space.

The U.S. list will include the names of 104 Russians, Kommersant reported Friday. It said Moscow has prepared 33 names to add to its original list of 71 names, giving it a total of 104 people as well.

Alexei Pushkov, head of the State Duma’s International Affairs Committee, told the newspaper that Russia’s move should not be perceived as a symmetrical response but rather as a reciprocal step.

The Magnitsky Act is named after lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in jail in 2009 after being arrested by Russian officials whom he had accused of defrauding the Russian government.

U.S. government officials say the list was expected to include Bastrykin, whose led a crackdown on the Russian opposition and whose investigation into Magnitsky’s death found last month that no crime had been committed.

Bastrykin has said he would be “honored” to be included on the list.

Also expected to be on the list is Kadyrov, who has been accused of numerous human rights violations in Chechnya.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed the blacklist with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during a G8 meeting in London on Wednesday, Kommersant said, citing an unidentified Russian diplomat.

The diplomat warned Kerry that the release of the list might cast a shadow over a visit by U.S. National Security Advisor Tom Donilon to Moscow on Monday.

During the visit, Donilon is expected to convey to Putin a personal message from U.S. President Barack Obama on mending relations between their two countries, Kommersant said.

Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, could not confirm Friday whether Putin would meet with Donilon, saying only that the president might stop by talks between Donilon and Security Council chief Nikolai Patrushev on Monday.

Under the Magnitsky Act, the U.S. administration should submit a final version of the blacklist to Congress and publish it no later than Monday. It is not clear whether a partial or complete list will be published.