Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul has announced via social media his inclusion on "the Kremlin's sanctions list" that prevent him from traveling to Russia.
Mc Faul, who was Washington's envoy in Moscow as bilateral friction mounted in 2012-14 and now teaches at Stanford University, wrote on Twitter on November 11 that he was told that he was blacklisted "because of my close affiliation with [U.S. President Barack] Obama."
"Confirmed that I am on the Kremlin's sanction lists and cannot travel to Russia," Mc Faul tweeted.
He said he learned of the ban when he applied for a visa to travel to Moscow in December "to do Clinton transition work," adding in an allusion to Democrat Hillary Clinton's defeat this week by Republican Donald Trump for the U.S. presidency, "No longer needed!"
Russia has imposed travel bans on a number of Americans since the U.S. administration passed the so-called Magnitsky Act in 2012, aimed at punishing officials implicated in the death of a whistleblowing Moscow lawyer in Russian pretrial detention.
McFaul has been an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose return to the Kremlin in 2012 for a third term sparked street protests in Russia by opposition and pro-democracy activists already angered by what they said were seriously flawed parliamentary elections in late 2011.
He noted on November 11 in a reference to Russia that "Since 1983, I've been living in and traveling to that country."
But he added in a tweet, "I probably have been on travel ban list since 2014, in response to US sanctions. Just found out now because I sought to apply for a visa."
U.S.-Russian relations are arguably at a post-Cold War nadir, hung up on differences over Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2014 and its continuing support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, a number of former Soviet republics' and satellites' embrace of the NATO security umbrella, divergent tacks regarding the ongoing war in Syria, and American accusations that Moscow used hackers and other cybercriminals to try and disrupt this month's U.S. elections.
McFaul, the U.S. ambassador from January 2012 until February 2014, complained of being accosted on several occasions by crews from Russian state-controlled television channels who showed up outside his private meetings, prompting Washington to complain to Moscow about security concerns. McFaul suggested his communications were being tapped and leaked to the journalists.
U.S. officials have recently cited an escalating pattern of harassment of U.S. diplomats by Russia, including suspected druggings at a UN anticorruption conference in Moscow in 2015 and the tackling of what the Washington said was an accredited American diplomat by a Russian guard outside the U.S. Embassy in June. After the tackling incident made its way onto Russian television, Moscow said the man was a CIA officer working under diplomatic cover.
The U.S. State Department in 2013 underscored "intensified pressure [on its employees] by the Russian security services at a level not seen since the days of the Cold War."
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova warned in June that "the more the U.S. damages relations, the harder it will be for U.S. diplomats to work in Russia."