Posted: Apr 12, 2013 7:57 AM
WASHINGTON - The United States is set to name Russians accused of human rights abuses to be targeted for financial sanctions and visa bans under a new law. The move has already angered the Russian government, which has threated to retaliate with its own sanctions.
A list of the Russians is expected to be made public Friday under a measure dubbed the Magnitsky Act, named for Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who was arrested in 2008 for tax evasion after accusing Russian police officials of stealing $230 million in tax rebates. In prison, Magnitsky was repeatedly beaten and denied medical treatment. He died in 2009 of untreated pancreatitis.
The law targets not only those tied to Magnitsky's death, but also those involved in other abuses. President Barack Obama initially resisted the legislation but agreed to it in a measure easing trade restrictions with Russia.
The release of the names comes at a sensitive time for the Obama administration, which is trying to jump-start talks with Russia on nuclear arms control. On Thursday, the administration announced that national security adviser Tom Donilon will travel to Moscow this month to discuss cooperation.
Some of the lawmakers behind the legislation are now pressuring the Obama administration to target high-level officials, including some close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Administration and congressional officials familiar with the deliberations say the list could include Russia's top police official, Alexander Bastrykin, who has spearheaded a crackdown on the Russian opposition.
Bastrykin's agency also led the investigation into Magnitsky's death and concluded last month that no crime was committed.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said that they also expect the list to include the Kremlin-backed Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, who is accused by human rights groups of torture, abductions and killings.
A string of Kadyrov's critics and political rivals have been murdered in recent years in Russia, Austria, Dubai and Turkey. Kadyrov has consistently denied involvement in the killings.
Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., sent the administration more than 250 names to be targeted. The number released Friday is likely to be much shorter. The law also allows the administration to compile a separate classified list that would subject officials only to visa bans.
The administration can update both lists any time.
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