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Russian officials on U.S. visa blacklist

WASHINGTON, July 26 (UPI) -- The U.S. State Department placed Russian officials tied to the death of a Russian lawyer on a visa blacklist, while other countries advance their own visa bans.

In response, Russian officials have threatened to scale back its cooperation on Iran, North Korea, Libya and transporting supplies to Afghanistan if the U.S. Senate passes a measure that would impose sanctions for human rights abuses, The Washington Post reported Monday.

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The European Parliament, Canada and the Netherlands have moved toward their own visa bans for about 60 Russians involved in the case of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died painfully while in pretrial detention.

In comments on the Senate bill issued last week, the Obama administration warned of possible retaliation from Moscow as well as the visa blacklist.

"Senior Russian government officials have warned us that they will respond asymmetrically if this [Senate] legislation passes," the White House document said. "Their argument is that we cannot expect them to be our partner in supporting sanctions against countries like Iran, North Korea, and Libya, and sanction them at the same time. Russian officials have said that other areas of bilateral cooperation, including on transit to Afghanistan, could be jeopardized if this legislation passes."

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The Russian Foreign Ministry told the Post Monday it would answer questions about the matter, but not until later this week.

Magnitsky was working for a U.S. law firm in Moscow and advising a large Western investment company, when he accused police and tax officials of a $230 million tax fraud. He was arrested and charged with the crime. In November 2009, he died in prison after being denied medical care for apparent pancreatitis and likely from being beaten hours before he died, the Post said. Those tied to the case were promoted and commended until this month, when Russian authorities announced that two prison doctors would be prosecuted for neglecting Magnitsky's care.

Russia's lower parliamentary chamber has begun discussing a bill that would target U.S. officials with similar visa sanctions, the Post said.

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