Magnitsky Act: 18 American Officials Blacklisted By Russia in Tit-For-Tat Sanctions

Russian officials banned 18 American officials on Saturday from entering the country, following a similar announcement from the U.S. just a day before that barred 18 Russians from entering the country. Members of both chambers of Russia’s parliament are optimistic, however, these tit-for-tat lists won’t be a major setback in U.S.-Russian relations. Yet, hostilities seem to be on the rise as their responses have seemed anything but optimistic.

The U.S. black-list, known as the Magnitsky Act, which was released on Friday, announced sanctions on Russian officials who were connected to the prosecution, and subsequent death of Sergei Magnitsky. Magnitsky, a Russian auditor, who was arrested in 2008 for tax evasion after he had accused Russian officials of stealing $230 million in tax rebates. He was allegedly beaten extensively and denied medical treatment in prison, and consequently died from untreated pancreatitis in 2009. According to the U.S. Treasury, the list is comprised of individuals directly responsible for the death of Magnitsky.

In response to Washington’s list, Moscow released its own list of eighteen American officials barred from entering the country, and called the Magnitsky legislation, which was passed earlier in December, an “absurd law,” holding that it was intervening with Russia’s domestic affairs.

The Russian list, on the other hand, consists of U.S. officials, generals, judges, attorneys and agents who are responsible for organizing the arrests, prosecution and judging of Russian arms trafficker, Viktor Bout, and Russian drug smuggler, Konstantin Yaroshenko.

The Russian list also includes men that the Russian Foreign Ministry believes are responsible for “the legalization of torture” and “unlimited detention.” Of those are David Addington, who was chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, John Yoo, who was a high-ranking Bush administration lawyer, and Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Milley and Rear Adm. Jeffrey Harbeson, both of whom command the detention operations in Guantanamo Bay.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich also added in televised remarks on Saturday that the this list, constructed by “Russo-phobically inclined U.S. Congress members” was a “strong blow has been dealt to the bilateral relations and mutual understanding.”

“The war of lists is not our choice but we have no right not to respond to an outright blackmail,” Lukashevich said, “It is high time politicians in Washington finally realized that it is pointless to build relations with such a country as Russia in the spirit of mentoring and unconcealed diktat.”

The U.S. State department, however, stressed that U.S. government was only "complying with its legislative requirements" in publishing the names.

"Our approach to Russia is to seek co-operation on matters of mutual interest while speaking openly about our differences," said acting deputy spokesperson Patrick Ventrell.

Despite the Russian parliament’s alleged optimism over the lists that both countries have produced, actions on both ends have been far from productive towards maintaining stable and friendly relations, especially with the potential of both lists being expanded at any time.