Russia says it has blacklisted an additional four U.S. citizens in response to Washington’s decision to sanction more Russians suspected of human rights abuses.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich said on January 29 that four U.S. Justice Department officials are now banned from entering Russia for their role in the detention of Roman Seleznyov, a Russian national facing U.S. fraud charges, in the Maldives last July.
He said the sanctions are a “mirror” response to U.S. visa bans and asset freezes imposed against four Russians last month under the so-called “Magnitsky Act,” a U.S. law punishing Russians deemed by Washington to be complicit in human rights violations.
“I would hope that the United States, which has become too wrapped up in the sanctions game, will ultimately realize that such policies are counterproductive,” Lukashevich said in a statement. “We once again confirm that in the future we will react harshly to any attacks on Russia.”
The statement comes amid threats by the United States and the EU to ratchet up sanctions against Russia should the bloody conflict between pro-Moscow rebels and Ukrainian forces continue to escalate in eastern Ukraine.
Washington has now sanctioned nearly three dozen Russian citizens under the Magnitsky Act, which is named after whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Moscow jail in 2009.
Magnitsky's friends and family say he was incarcerated, tortured and denied medical treatment that could have saved his life as retribution for accusing Russian law enforcement and tax officials of stealing $230 million from state coffers.
Enacted in 2012, the Magnitsky Act targets Russians allegedly linked to Magnitsky’s death as well as other purported rights abuses.
Russia has responded tit-for-tat to previous Magnitsky Act sanctions against its citizens as well, blacklisting U.S. officials Moscow accuses of abuses of power.
Lukashevich accused the four Justice Department officials targeted in this latest round of sanctions of “blatant violations of human rights and international legal norms” in connection with Seleznyov’s arrest, which he described as an “abduction.”
Seleznyov, the son of Russian lawmaker Valery Seleznyov, was arrested July 5 in the Maldives by the U.S. Secret Service and subsequently transported to the Pacific island of Guam, a U.S. territory.
He was indicted in March 2011 on charges including bank fraud and aggravated identity theft.
Russia has repeatedly accused U.S. authorities of violating international legal norms by securing the arrest of its citizens in third countries and their extraditions to face criminal charges in the United States.