U.S. will not add names to Russian sanction list

Dec. 20, 2013 at 2:18 AM   |   0 comments

WASHINGTON, Dec. 20 (UPI) -- The Obama administration will not expand a blacklist of alleged Russian rights abusers this year, congressional sources and officials told the Daily Beast.

The U.S. State Department had been preparing to add 10 to 20 new names, including former top Russian prosecutor Alexander Bastrykin, to the so-called Magnitsky List of Russians subject to visa bans and asset freezes, but made an abrupt reversal, the news website said.

"We had multiple high-level assurances that there had been new names," a congressional aide told the website Thursday. "Now we hear today that there's not going to be a new list. There's no explanation."

The State Department had no immediate comment.

Administration and congressional sources told the Beast the Obama administration wanted to avoid a new confrontation with Moscow during a sensitive time in U.S.-Russian relations, especially as the two countries work together on issues including Syria and Iran.

The blacklist is authorized under the U.S. Magnitsky Act, a 2012 law named after Russian anti-corruption accountant and lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in prison Nov. 16, 2009, seven days before the expiration of the one-year term during which he could be legally held without trial.

Magnitsky had allegedly been beaten and tortured by several Russian Interior Ministry officers before he died, the Moscow Helsinki Group human rights organization said.

Magnitsky was posthumously convicted five months ago of tax evasion in a prosecution widely viewed as politically motivated.

The Obama administration was supposed to have reported to Congress on the Magnitsky Act's first year Dec. 14, but hasn't yet produced the report.

The new names were widely expected to have been included in the report.

U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul said Dec. 11 additions to the Magnitsky List could be announced by the end of the year.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov responded by promising Moscow would reciprocate with a proportional response, government news agency RIA Novosti reported.

White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden told the Daily Beast Thursday even if the administration's report to Congress doesn't include new names, additional Russian officials could be targeted with the sanctions later.

"While I can't speak to the timing of any additional designations -- which are not required to occur at the same time as the annual report -- a number of cases are under review and the administration is determined to fully implement the act by making further designations as appropriate," she said.

Washington published the names of 18 Russians on the Magnitsky List in April.

Moscow responded by issuing its own blacklist of 18 U.S. officials it alleged engaged in human rights violations. Moscow also banned Americans from adopting Russian orphans.

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