The U.S. government on Friday released the long-awaited public portion of the Magnitsky blacklist, naming 18 Russians implicated in human rights abuses in a partly symbolic gesture that threatens to add tension to already stressed U.S.-Russian ties.
The list did not, however, include Investigative Committee chief Alexander Bastrykin, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, or any other top officials, as some observers had expected it to. Russian officials and political analysts attributed this to Washington’s desire not to overly anger Moscow.
The Magnitsky Act is named after lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in jail in 2009 after being arrested by Russian officials whom he had accused of defrauding the Russian government.
Jay Carney, spokesman for U.S. President Barack Obama, called Magnitsky’s death a “tragedy” at a press briefing Friday and said Washington has “differences” with Russia.
“Human rights is an issue that we have disagreements with them on at times, and we are very frank and candid about that,” Carney said. “And we will engage with the Russians on those issues, as well as the others that we have, some of which allow for opportunities of cooperation that are important for the national security interests of the United States, as well as for the security — in the case of North Korea — of that region of the world.”
Russia’s Foreign Ministry responded quickly Saturday to the publication of the Magnitsky blacklist by releasing its own list of U.S. citizens barred from entering Russia.
The U.S. list, required under the Magnitsky Act signed into law in December, aims to punish Russian officials implicated in human rights violations by barring their entry into the U.S. and depriving them of U.S.-based assets.
President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov acknowledged Friday that the release of the blacklists would further strain relations between the two countries.
“The appearance of any kind of blacklist will, of course, have a negative impact on U.S.-Russian relations,” Peskov said.
But he emphasized that the governments still had many areas where they could strengthen cooperation. “With that in mind, there will always be topics to discuss,” he told reporters in the Far East city of Blagoveshchensk, where Putin was attending events to mark the 62nd anniversary of the Soviet Union sending the first man into space.
Of the 18 people on the blacklist released Friday by the U.S. Treasury Department on its Specially Designated Nationals list, 16 are current and former officials implicated by Magnitsky as having taken part in the fraud scheme or those accused by Magnitsky’s supporters of having played a role in the lawyer’s jailing and death.
According to the Magnitsky Act, the White House can keep certain names on the list classified for national security reasons, so it may not be limited to the 18 names published Friday.
An unidentified senior State Department official confirmed at a briefing held Friday that there was in fact a classified list, though he declined to provide any further details, a report published on the State Department website said.
In accordance with the law, the individuals included on the classified list are simply denied entry to the U.S., though no asset freezes will apply to them.
“The U.S. has confirmed the existence of a classified part of the blacklist of Russians who will be refused visas. The visa war is beginning,” Alexei Pushkov, head of the State Duma’s International Affairs Committee, wrote on Twitter on Saturday.
Ahead of the list’s release, U.S. government officials said it was expected to include Bastrykin, whose law enforcement agency led a crackdown on the Russian opposition and whose investigation into Magnitsky’s death found last month that no crime had been committed. Bastrykin has said he would be “honored” to be included on the list.
Also expected to be on the list was Kadyrov, who had been accused of numerous human rights violations in Chechnya.
The New York Times reported Friday, citing anonymous sources, that Kadyrov was included in the classified list.
Kadyrov reacted to the report in a joking manner, however.
“I just learned from journalists that I was possibly included on some Magnitsky list. As soon as I found out, I returned my ticket to the U.S. and will never take it back,” he told RIA-Novosti on Saturday, adding that he never had any assets in the U.S.
The 16 people on the list related to the Magnitsky case include seven Interior Ministry officials, two tax officials, four judges, two prison officials, and one person from the Prosecutor General’s Office.
Two former Interior Ministry officers, Artyom Kuznetsov and Pavel Karpov, were accused by Magnitsky of fabricating the criminal case against Hermitage Capital’s subsidiaries by seizing their founding documents and later arranging a fraudulent tax refund with the help of the heads of two Moscow tax offices, Yelena Khimina and Olga Stepanova, who are also on the list.
Dmitry Komnov and Ivan Prokopenko are the former heads of Butyrka and Matrosskaya Tishina jails, respectively, where Magnitsky was held over a one-year period and allegedly subjected to various forms of ill treatment, including frequent cell transfers and withholding of medical treatment.
The four judges on the list are accused by supporters of the Magnitsky Act of approving the supposedly unlawful arrest of Magnitsky, refusing to consider his complaints about poor conditions in jail, and prolonging his arrest. One of the judges on the list, Yelena Stashina, from Moscow’s Tverskoi District Court, prolonged Magnitsky’s detention period four days before his death in a cell at Matrosskaya Tishina.
“This is a historical moment that shows the U.S. is particularly concerned with human rights abuses in Russia,” Hermitage Capital head William Browder said by phone. “The fact that there are four judges on the list shows that the Russian judicial system is so bad and corrupted,” he added.
Browder also said he will insist on making the list longer by adding both people who, according to him, were directly involved in Magnitsky’s death and other violators of human rights in Russia. “The list published today is just the first step,” Browder said. He refused to name any specific people whom he would like to see added to the blacklist.
Representative James McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat who was one of the authors of the law, confirmed on Friday that the list would be updated and new names added.
“While the list is timid and features more significant omissions than names, I was assured by administration officials today that the investigation is ongoing, and further additions will be made to the list as new evidence comes to light,” he said in a statement on Friday.
Earlier in April, McGovern sent his own version of the blacklist to the Obama administration; that list consisted of 280 names, including high-ranking officials such as Prosecutor General Yury Chaika and the Investigative Committee head Alexander Bastrykin.
“The fact that a name is not on the list does not mean that person is innocent. And as the list makes clear, the law empowers the administration to address human rights violations beyond the Magnitsky case,” McGovern said.
Two people on the list — Chechnya natives Kazbek Dukuzov and Lecha Bogatyryov — do not have any direct relation to the Magnitsky case but have been implicated in other human rights violations.
Dukuzov was charged with the murder of Paul Klebnikov, the former editor-in-chief of Russian Forbes, in 2004, but cleared of the charge in 2006. The investigation was later reopened and he was additionally charged with the murder of former deputy head of the Chechen government Yan Sergunin.
Bogatyryov was charged with the 2009 murder of Umar Israilov, a former bodyguard of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, in Vienna, where Israilov gave interviews to Western media about crimes that were committed in Chechnya with the alleged participation of Kadyrov. The Chechen leader has denied any wrongdoing in that case.
There were conflicting reports Friday morning regarding the number of Russians who would be included. Kommersant reported that it would include the names of 104 Russians, while Reuters said it would only contain 18 names. Kommersant said Moscow has prepared 33 names to add to its original list of 71 names, giving it a total of 104 people.
Pushkov told Kommersant that Russia’s move should not be perceived as a symmetrical response but rather as a reciprocal step.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed the blacklist with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during a G8 meeting in London on Wednesday, Kommersant said, citing an unidentified Russian diplomat.
The diplomat warned Kerry that the release of the list might cast a shadow over a visit by U.S. National Security Adviser Tom Donilon to Moscow on Monday.
During the visit, Donilon is expected to convey to Putin a personal message from U.S. President Barack Obama on mending relations between the two countries, Kommersant said.
Peskov could not confirm Friday whether Putin would meet with Donilon, saying only that the president might stop by talks between Donilon and Security Council chief Nikolai Patrushev on Monday.
1) Lecha Bogatyryov, implicated in the 2009 killing of Umar Israilov, a former bodyguard of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov who became a critic of the Kadyrov regime
2) Alexei Droganov, an officer in the tax crimes department of the Interior Ministry who participated in the search of the Hermitage Fund’s office during which documents were seized; he also participated in the search of Magnitsky’s apartment and later signed a report extending Magnitsky’s detention.
3) Kazbek Dukuzov, formerly charged with the 2004 killing of journalist Paul Klebnikov
4) Pavel Karpov, former Interior Ministry official accused by Magnitsky of fabricating criminal case against Hermitage Capital
5) Yelena Khimina, former tax official accused by Magnitsky of helping arrange a fraudulent $230 million tax refund
6) Dmitry Komnov, former head of Butyrka detention center, where Magnitsky was jailed and allegedly mistreated
7) Alexei Krivoruchko, Tverskoi District Court judge who prolonged Magnitsky’s detention two months before his death.
8) Artyom Kuznetsov, former Interior Ministry official accused by Magnitsky of fabricating criminal case against Hermitage Capital
9) Oleg Logunov, deputy head of the Investigative Committee within the Interior Ministry who authorized Magnitsky’s arrest and appointed officers who were implicated in the seizure of corporate documents of the Hermitage Fund, he also authorized the prolongation of Magnitsky’s detention two months before his death.
10) Andrei Pechegin, deputy head of the department responsible for monitoring the investigation of especially important cases within the Prosecutor General’s Office who did not respond to complaints of the violation of Magnitsky’s rights in prison before and after his death.
11) Sergei Podoprigorov, judge at the Tverskoi District Court who approved the arrest and prolonged detention of Magnitsky in March 2009.
12) Ivan Prokopenko, former head of Matrosskaya Tishina detention center, where Magnitsky was jailed and allegedly mistreated
13) Oleg Silchenko, senior investigator in the Interior Ministry who was in charge of Magnitsky’s arrest and detention. He also refused a petition for a medical examination from Magnitsky’s lawyers two months before Magnitsky’s death and regularly refused his family visitation.
14) Yelena Stashina, a judge at Moscow’s Tverskoi District Court who prolonged Magnitsky’s detention period.
15) Olga Stepanova, former tax official accused by Magnitsky of helping arrange a fraudulent $230 million tax refund
16) Dmitry Tolchinsky, an officer with the tax crimes department in the Moscow branch of the Interior Ministry who participated in the search of the Hermitage Fund’s office and signed a report calling for Magnitsky’s detention due to an alleged plan to escape.
17) Svetlana Ukhnalyova, a judge at the Tverskoi District Court who prolonged Magnitsky’s arrest in June 2009 and refused a complaint from Magnitsky’s lawyers to transfer him to a different detention center.
18) Natalya Vinogradova, an Interior Ministry officer who participated in the search of the Hermitage Fund’s office. After Magnitsky’s death, she refused to consider a complaint from Jamison Firestone about Magnitsky’s ill treatment in custody.