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Former Deputy Interior Minister Aleksei Anichin is on the updated blacklist.

WASHINGTON -- The United States has added five more Russians to its so-called “Magnitsky List,” which sanctions alleged human rights abusers that have been linked to the death of whistle-blowing Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky and other violations.

The Treasury Department released the additional names on February 1, bringing to 39 the total number of people publicly sanctioned under the congressional legislation.

One new name on the blacklist is Aleksei Anichin, a deputy interior minister linked to Magnitsky’s death who was later fired from his post by then-President Dmitry Medvedev.

Another is Boris Kibis, an outside investigator who concluded that Magnitsky had not been tortured or mistreated.

Another on the updated list is Pavel Lapshov, the head of the Interior Ministry’s investigative department who asserted publicly that Magnitsky’s employer, Hermitage Capital Management, was behind the tax fraud he had uncovered. Lapshov later appeared to recant that assertion.

At the time the law was passed in 2012, Moscow and Washington were trying to reset relations that had been poisoned by Russia’s 2008 war in Georgia and other international disagreements.

The Magnitsky List was met with bitter denunciations by Russia and marked the beginning of a spiral that has sent bilateral ties to lows not seen since the Cold War.

Moscow issued its own blacklist of U.S. officials it claims have been complicit in rights abuses.

Magnitsky was working as a tax lawyer for Hermitage, a Western-owned portfolio investment company with major holdings in Russia, when he discovered an audacious and highly complex $230 million fraud scheme involving shell companies and bogus tax refunds.

He was later arrested by Russian law enforcement, charged with similar fraud charges, and jailed in a notorious Moscow prison.

His supporters said he was tortured and denied medical treatment, leading to his death in 2009, a finding supported by a presidentially appointed human rights council.

A Moscow court tried Magnitsky posthumously in 2013 and found him guilty on tax evasion charges.

Most of those on the list either are tied to the tax fraud that Magnitsky uncovered or to the prison where he was held. Some already had been blacklisted by the European Union under a similar sanctions list.

The 2012 law provides for a public list of sanctioned individuals, as well as a classified list that reportedly includes Ramzan Kadyrov, the strongman leader of Russia's restive Chechnya region.

Rights groups have long accused Kadyrov of abuses that include torture and extrajudicial killings.

The Obama administration also has sanctioned a wide range of senior Russian government and military officials for their role in Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula of Crimea and the Kremlin's support for pro-Russian separatists that are fighting government forces in eastern Ukraine.

The Instagram post shows former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and antigovernment activist Vladimir Kara-Murza entering a Strasbourg building and was filtered to appear as if the men are being viewed through the scope of a rifle.

Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov posted a surveillance-style video depicting a former Russian prime minister-turned-opposition leader and a Kremlin gadfly in crosshairs.

The clip, on the Moscow-backed strongman's Instagram account, came against a backdrop of alarming political violence associated with Russia, including a U.K. public inquiry concluding that the murder by radioactive poisoning in London of a former Russian spy was "probably approved" by Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the assassination nearly a year ago of strident Putin foe and Yeltsin-era Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov.

The appearance in the video of the ailing antigovernment activist Vladimir Kara-Murza Jr. was particularly poignant, since he has alleged he was poisoned and nearly died over his political activities last year.

It also follows weeks of public attacks and implicit threats on social and other media by Kadyrov and his allies against Russian opposition leaders and journalists.

International rights groups have warned of past instances of violence after such "menacing rhetoric."

The video that emerged on January 31 showed former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov (2000-04) and Kara-Murza entering a Strasbourg building and was filtered to appear as if the men are being viewed through the scope of a rifle.

​The text accompanying the clip read: "'Kasyanov has come to Strasbourg to get money for the Russian opposition'. 💰💰💰💰 WHOEVER DOESN'T GET IT, WILL! ☝."

The first sentence was a headline taken from the Internet news website LifeNews, which published the video -- sans the filter -- on January 26. The second was a slogan associated with a purported action-movie project in which Kadyrov plays the main part:

Kasyanov and Kara-Murza were in Strasbourg to participate in a session of the Council of Europe, of which Russia has been a member since 1996.

LifeNews claimed the video, shot from afar, shows the men approaching La Vignette Robertsau restaurant, where Russian oppositionists allegedly met with representatives from the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

Kadyrov recently called for Russian opposition activists to be treated "as enemies of the people, as traitors" -- language that rights activists have associated with Soviet history's show trials, executions, and banishment to the notorious gulag prison system.

The Chechen leader frequently plays the role of attack dog against Kremlin critics, leveling outrageous accusations and using rhetoric regarded as too bellicose for many politicians, even on the notoriously coarse Russian political landscape.

But he has also been accused of ordering or even carrying out atrocities against rights activists or journalists.

A lawyer for the slain Nemtsov has suggested the defendants in that continuing case are scapegoats "in order to deflect attention from Kadyrov's inner circle."

Kara-Murza claimed via social media that Kadyrov had used essentially the same phrase, "Whoever didn't get it, will," on May 25, one day before the activist fell suddenly ill from what he claims was poisoning.

Kasyanov said he regards Kadyrov's post as a death threat.

"I believe that this is a direct murder threat of a statesman, as described in the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. I will consult lawyers and, most likely, appeal to law enforcement based on this [article]," he told Interfax agency after the video was released.

Kasyanov said he expects a reaction from President Vladimir Putin, who is "the guarantor of the country's constitution."

Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he would look into the post but added that social media generally does not concern the Kremlin.

"We are not following Kadyrov's Instagram," Peskov said, according to RBK. "In general, we don't follow Instagram."

Instagram eventually removed the video, after calls that it contravened its own guidelines. Instagram spokeswoman Marni Tomljanovic confirmed to RFE/RL that the company removed Kadyrov's post because it violated Instagram's community guidelines.

Instagram's community guidelines state that it removes "content that contains credible threats or hate speech, content that targets private individuals to degrade or shame them, personal information meant to blackmail or harass someone, and repeated unwanted messages."

In a later post on his Instagram page, Kadyrov lashed out at the social-media site.

“How about that vaunted American freedom of speech! You can write anything you want, but don’t touch the dogs of America, the friends of the Secretary of State and Congress. You know perfectly well what I’m talking about.”

Some chided Instagram before their decision:

Others suggested the blame lies squarely at the top of Russia's official structures.

"Kadyrov threatens terrorist attacks," opposition leader Aleskei Navalny tweeted. "And you can't say that this is not sanctioned by Putin anymore."

"Not a bit embarrassed by his [alleged] role in the murder of Nemtsov, Kadyrov openly offers Putin his services in the further physical liquidation of the undesirable," wrote Russian political analyst Andrei Piontkovsky.

Kadyrov often portrays himself as a defender of Islam, and he regularly shares excerpts from the Koran and stories about his children studying the Islamic holy book.

"Somebody send me a quote from the Koran where it says that you can share photos of people in a rifle scope on Instagram. The page and the line in a direct message please," one person tweeted.

But many others didn't share Kasyanov's unease, claiming that both sides can play the Internet meme game.

"It's OK for a Russian opposition activist to publish a fake photo of Putin in a coffin, but a fake photo of Kasyanov in a scope is bad," one user tweeted, referencing speculation during the Russian president's mysterious 10-day disappearance in 2015.

Others also interpreted the published video as a joke, but one of a different sort.

"[Doesn't] Kasyanov allow himself to blame Kadyrov for Nemtsov's death? Without evidence, based on personal feelings. So Kadyrov joked about it," tweeted Russian lawyer Violetta Volkova.

"Optical scope may also be used to surveil the terrain and calculate distances to objects, for instance," wrote Maria Katasonova, an aide to Russian deputy Yevgeny Fyodorov.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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