Russia Bars 18 Americans from Entering, in Retaliation for Magnitsky

From The NY Times- By

Published: April 13, 2013

MOSCOW — A day after the United States imposed sanctions on Russians accused of rights violations, Moscow said Saturday that it could not “leave this open blackmail without response” and published a list of 18 current and former American officials who will now be barred from entry to Russia.

The list is headed by four men who Russia’s Foreign Ministry says are responsible for “the legalization of torture” and “unlimited detention”: David Addington, who served as chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney and provided legal support for interrogation policies; John Yoo, a high-ranking Bush administration lawyer who wrote several major opinions on torture; and Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller and Rear Adm. Jeffrey Harbeson, each of whom commanded detention operations in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

The remaining officials are justice and law enforcement officials whom Russia accuses of violating the rights of its citizens abroad. Several were involved in a case against Viktor Bout, the convicted arms dealer now in federal prison in the United States, and in a drug-trafficking case against a Russian pilot, Konstantin Yaroshenko.

The most high-profile among those barred is Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, who oversaw prosecution of the Bout case.

Moscow had warned that it would response in a tough way to the United States’ so-called Magnitsky List of sanctioned figures, named after a lawyer in Russia who was investigating official corruption, only to be arrested and die in custody in 2009. Already, Russia’s Parliament has banned adoption of Russian children by American families, canceling scores of adoptions that had not reached their final stages.

A spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, which released the tit-for-tat list on Saturday, said that Washington must realize that it cannot conduct its relationship with Moscow “in the spirit of mentoring and undisguised diktat.”

“Our principled opinion on this unfriendly step is well known: under the pressure of Russophobically inclined U.S. congressmen, a severe blow has been dealt to bilateral relations and mutual confidence,” said the spokesman, Aleksandr Lukashevich.

He added, “The war of lists is not our choice, but we had no right to leave this open blackmail unanswered.”

A State Department spokesman who declined to be identified said: “As we’ve said many times before, the right response by Russia to the international outcry over Sergei Magnitsky’s death would be to conduct a proper investigation and hold those responsible for his death accountable, rather than engage in tit-for-tat retaliation.”

Those on the list were not known to be frequent travelers to Russia, and at least one mocked Moscow’s move with a reference to President Vladimir V. Putin’s athletic endeavors. “Darn,” Mr. Yoo said in an e-mail. “There goes my judo match with Putin.”

The diplomatic tussle comes after a year of deepening strains between Russia and the United States, and on the eve of a visit by President Obama’s national security adviser, Tom Donilon. The Obama administration has sought Russian cooperation in crises in Syria and North Korea, and recently decided to scale back plans for a missile defense system in Europe, an irritant to Russia. But Mr. Putin attributes a wave of protests against his government to Western interference in domestic affairs, and is increasingly hostile to American criticism of his human rights record.