Sun, 29 Nov 2020

Russia has sanctioned 25 British citizens in response to punitive measures taken by London nearly five months ago against the same number of Russians for human rights violations.

The Russian Foreign Ministry announced the reciprocal sanctions on November 21 but did not provide the names of the sanctioned British citizens.

The ministry said the British government's punitive measures against the Russian officials announced on July 6 came 'under imaginary and absurd pretexts.' Therefore, representatives of Britain are now being banned from entering Russia, it said.

Britain brought sanctions against 25 Russians as part of post-Brexit measures that Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said were aimed at "people who have committed the gravest human rights violations."

The sanctions included a ban on travel to Britain and asset freezes aimed at any property the individuals own within its jurisdiction.

The British list includes Aleksandr Bastrykin, the head of the powerful Investigative Committee, as well as judges and prosecutors, who London said were involved in the mistreatment and death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on November 21 that London had never explained the basis the British government used in picking the Russians it sanctioned.

'In response to unfriendly actions of the U.K. authorities and on the basis of the principle of reciprocity, the Russian side made a decision to impose personal sanctions against 25 U.K. representatives who are barred from entering the Russian Federation,' Zakharova said in a statement.

London's actions look like an attempt to interfere in another country's internal affairs and put pressure on the Russian justice system, she added.

Magnitsky died in a Moscow prison from an untreated illness in 2009 after accusing Russian officials of a $230 million tax fraud.

The case attracted international attention amid an intensive lobbying effort by Bill Browder, a well-known investor for whom Magnitsky had worked.

Over the course of a decade, Browder pushed Western nations to pass a global Magnitsky Act that would impose sanctions on individuals responsible for committing human rights violations or acts of significant corruption.

The United States also saw serious human rights violations in the treatment of Magnitsky and imposed sanctions.

Russia has long rejected claims that Magnitsky was killed and has lobbied hard against sanctions bills, even accusing Browder and his lawyer of crimes, including fraud.

The British sanctions announced in July increased tensions in its fraught relationship with Russia.

London has accused Russia of 'destabilizing' activities on its territory, including the 2018 chemical attack that almost killed former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter. Russia has denied the accusation.

Based on reporting by TASS, dpa, AFP, and Reuters

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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