- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 11, 2011

Moscow is preparing a list of U.S. officials it will ban from Russia in retaliation for a White House policy to keep Russian human rights abusers out of the U.S.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry this week began preparing a list of officials connected to the U.S. apprehension of suspected arms dealer Viktor A. Bout and convicted drug dealer Konstantin Yaroshenko, according to reports in the Russian press.

The State Department last month announced that it has a list of Russian officials connected to the 2009 slaying of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky who would be denied visas to visit the United States if requested.

When asked about the list of U.S. officials on Thursday, a spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Washington referred to a statement by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov.


“We will surely respond, but our response is not going to be an exact replica,” Mr. Ryabkov said this month. “The lists might differ in terms of composition.”

Mark Toner, deputy spokesman for the State Department, said: “We are aware of the reports in Russian media about a visa ban Russian authorities have purportedly put in place. We have not heard formally from the Russian government on this issue.”

Moscow’s equating Magnitsky, a lawyer investigating corruption at Russia’s Interior Ministry, and Mr. Bout, an arms dealer who is accused of having sold weapons to some of Africa’s and Asia’s most barbaric warlords, drew criticism in Washington.

David Kramer, president of Freedom House, a human rights group funded in part by Congress, said it is absurd to compare Magnitsky’s case to that of Mr. Bout.

“To compare the two cases is absurd,” Mr. Kramer said. “I find the Russian effort to be a poor joke. If this is the best they can do in terms of responding, they are neither very imaginative [nor] all that interested in getting to the bottom of the Magnitsky case.”

Mr. Bout was arrested in Thailand in November and extradited to the United States over the objections of Russia’s Foreign Ministry.

Yaroshenko was convicted this spring of conspiring to import drugs to the U.S. He was apprehended by U.S. special operations forces in Liberia in 2010.

Last week, the White House issued a proclamation declaring it U.S. policy to bar officials guilty of violating human rights and humanitarian law from entering the United States.

The White House’s proclamation and the State Department’s unpublicized list are seen by many observers as an effort to head off legislation known as the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, which was drafted by Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland Democrat.

Mr. Cardin’s bill is a new kind of targeted sanction that seeks to punish foreign government officials by denying them access to the West.

In the past, targeted sanctions attempted to freeze assets or punish a nation’s economy by banning exports of advanced technology.

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