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Russia Angered by US Talk of Magnitsky List Expansion

RIA Novosti

23:22 12/07/2013 MOSCOW/WASHINGTON, July 12 (RIA Novosti) – Russia’s Foreign Ministry reacted angrily Friday to statements from US officials this week that Washington could expand the so-called Magnitsky List, a blacklist freezing the US assets and imposing travel bans on alleged Russian rights abusers.

“We have explained repeatedly that the “war of blacklists” started by Washington is unquestionably a dead end, dooming Russian-US relations to fruitless confrontation,” the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry statement came in response to US Senate testimony given Thursday by Victoria Nuland, who has been nominated to become deputy US secretary of state, and Daniel Baer, US President Barack Obama’s nominee for the post of US ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Both Nuland and Baer told the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations that they support adding more names to the blacklist as stipulated under the Magnitsky Act, a US law enacted in December to target Russians that Washington considers complicit in the 2009 death of whistleblowing lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, as well as other Russians accused of rights abuses.

“My bureau has been involved in producing the first list, and we do see it as an ongoing project and we plan to add names to the list,” Baer, who currently serves as US deputy assistant secretary of state, said in response to a question from Sen. John McCain, a fierce Kremlin critic.

In April, Washington released the names of 18 officials targeted by the Magnitsky Act sanctions and said a handful of other Russians had been placed on a classified sanctions list in the interests of US national security.

This list incensed Russia, which issued its own blacklist of 18 US officials described by Moscow as having been connected with the US’s infamous Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba or as having violated the rights of Russians abroad.

Nuland, a former US State Department spokeswoman nominated by Obama to become assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, told Thursday’s hearing that the Magnitsky blacklist would be expanded as necessary.

“Our work on the list is ongoing and we will add names as we are able to,” Nuland said.

In its statement Friday, the Russian Foreign Ministry accused the Obama administration of being cowed by “rabid Russophobes” on Capitol Hill like McCain and Sen. Benjamin Cardin, a co-author of the Magnitsky Act, and said Moscow would respond to an expanded Magnitsky List by adding more US officials to its own blacklist.

The ministry suggested Friday that US officials tied to a secret government surveillance program exposed last month by fugitive former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden could be added to the Russian blacklist.

“There is no shortage of candidates for our current ‘Guantanamo List,’ especially taking into account the recent high-profile disclosures about mass-scale US Congress-sanctioned violations by US special services of the privacy of telephone conversations and correspondence all over the world, including the infringement of the corresponding rights of Russians,” the ministry said.

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