Moscow has vowed to hit back at Canada after Ottawa announced financial sanctions and other restrictions on 30 Russians in connection with a whistleblowing Russian lawyer whose 2009 death and the crimes he uncovered have been a persistent thorn in the Kremlin's side.
The Canadian list, released on November 3 by the Foreign Ministry, largely mirrors a similar list compiled by the United States after it passed the Magnitsky Act in 2012, which punished individuals alleged to be connected to Sergei Magnitsky's death and a massive tax fraud scheme he helped uncover.
Canada earlier this year passed its own version of the law which, as with the U.S. law, prompted vocal criticism from Russia.
Investigative Committee chairman Aleksandr Bastrykin is one of the most prominent names on the Canadian list, but it also includes several Interior Ministry and Tax Agency officials. A group of Venezuelan officials, including President Nicolas Maduro, were also named.
Russian officials had warned repeatedly they would retaliate if Canada went ahead with the sanctions.
In a statement on the Foreign Ministry’s website after the list was released, spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said a "decision has been made" to ban "a whole cast of Canadian figures" from entering Russia as part of Moscow's response.
"It's a long list with dozens of names," Zakharova said. "We are talking about those Canadian citizens with Russophobic attitudes who have deliberately engaged in the destruction of bilateral relations."
The statement did not include any names of Canadians to be targeted by Moscow.
The Russian Embassy in Ottawa released a statement as well, calling the sanctions "absolutely pointless and reprehensible."
“Isolating itself from one of the key world powers to please the Russophobic lobby, while praising an international fraudster sponsoring his personal vendetta, brings Canadian foreign policy back to the narrow black-and-white worldview inconsistent with modern geopolitics,” the embassy’s statement said.
“If the Canadian side prefers to play the sanctions game, Russia would be obliged to respond.”
“As of this time, dozens of Canadians are additionally barred from entering Russia. It’s not our choice, but in the event of new sanctions, response will be imminent and reciprocal in terms of quantity and quality,” it added without explanation.
Magnitsky was employed by British-American financier William Browder when he was arrested and charged with the $230 million tax fraud scheme that he helped uncover.
He died in Moscow jail in 2009, and the fallout from his death, as well as the original fraud, have rippled through U.S., and now Canadian, foreign policy, helping to send Moscow relations with Washington plummeting.
In the wake of the 2012 U.S. law, Moscow banned American parents from adopting Russian children. Congress later passed an expanded version of the Magnitsky law, amid a secretive lobbying campaign in Washington, aimed at undermining the facts of the Magnitsky case.
Some of the funds from the stolen $230 million allegedly were laundered by a Russian businessman to buy Manhattan real estate.
The Russian lawyer who represented him was involved in the lobbying campaign and met with President Donald Trump's son in June 2016.
Russia has also gone after Browder, accusing him of financial crimes and asking the United States for help in prosecuting him, pleas that Washington has ignored.
Like the United States and other Western nations, Canada imposed sanctions on Russia after its annexation of Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula in 2014.