MOSCOW — Dozens of Americans have been placed on a “Guantanamo list” barring them from entering Russia, in the latest phase of Moscow’s retaliation against a U.S. law that imposes sanctions against Russians suspected of human rights abuses.
Alexei Pushkov, head of the Russian parliament’s foreign relations committee, said the list had been expanded to 60 people from the 11 U.S. officials involved in running the U.S. Guantanamo Bay prison facility in Cuba, as well as others holding terrorism suspects.
He said the additions to the list included “judges, investigators, justice ministry officials and special service agents” who had participated in the prosecution of Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer, and Konstantin Yaroshenko, a convicted drug smuggler.
Russia says Bout’s jailing was politically motivated, while it claims Yaroshenko was kidnapped and illegally extradited to the United States from Liberia. Bout was jailed last year for 25 years by a U.S. District Court in New York. Yaroshenko was sentenced to 20 years in 2011.
Mr. Pushkov also said in an interview with the Izvestia newspaper that the list included members of Congress, as well as Americans who adopted Russian children who later died in their custody.
The Guantanamo list, which has not been made public, follows a Kremlin ban on Americans adopting Russian children.
President Vladimir Putin last month slammed what he called “medieval” conditions at Guantanamo Bay, as he gave his public backing to Russia’s retaliation.
“At Guantanamo, they keep people in prison for years without any charges,” Mr. Putin said at a massive news conference in Moscow. “People there walk around in shackles, just like in medieval times.”
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said last week it has already denied entry to Rear Adm. Jeffrey Harbeson, a former official at the Guantanamo prison facility.
Russia was enraged after President Obama’s signed into law in late December the so-called Magnitsky Act. The law bars entry to the United States by Russian officials suspected to have been involved in the death of 37-year-old lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow pretrial detention center in 2009, as well as other gross human rights violations. The law also freezes their U.S. bank accounts.
Magnitsky was jailed after claiming massive fraud by Russian tax officials. Russia’s human rights council said in 2011 that it believed he was beaten to death by prison officials. No one has been jailed over his death, and Magnitsky is being prosecuted posthumously for tax evasion.
The Magnitsky Act was pushed by members of an anti-Putin protest movement, including former Russian Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, who held talks with senior members of Congress last year to argue the case for the ban.
The Kremlin called the Magnitsky Act a “purely political, unfriendly act” and an attempt to interfere in Russia’s internal affairs.
Russia barred Americans from adopting Russian children in retaliation. More than 60,000 Russian children have been adopted by American families in the past 20 years, including about 1,000 in 2011, according to U.S. State Department figures.
Russian lawmakers justified the ban by citing the deaths of 19 of those children at the hands of their adoptive parents in the United States since 1999.
The ban has split public opinion in Russia and provoked rare open criticism from government figures, with even Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaking out against it. But although thousands of people marched through central Moscow earlier this month to protest the ban, a poll published by the Public Opinion Fund in late December indicated that 56 percent of Russians support the move.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the United States was to blame for ongoing diplomatic tensions between Moscow and Washington.
“A tit-for-tat response was not our choice,” Mr. Rybkov told the RIA Novosti state news agency, commenting on the Guantanamo list. “But we were forced to act in similar fashion.”