Russia to question Britain over diplomatic blacklist report
The Kremlin is said to be angry over news that London reportedly blacklisted some 60 Russian officials over their alleged involvement in the death of an anti-corruption crusader in 2009.
Russia's ambassador to Britain will demand a response from the Foreign Office after reports that London might have blacklisted Russian officials for their alleged role in the prison death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, RIA news agency said on Sunday.
The Sunday Times reported that British Home Secretary Theresa May had sent a list of 60 Russians, including judges, intelligence officers and prosecutors, to the British embassy in Moscow and that they could be banned from entering the country.
Relations between Moscow and London have been strained over security, diplomatic, and human rights issues for years, particularly since the 2006 murder in London of Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian spy who died from poisoning with radioactive polonium-210.
Britain and other nations also condemned Russia for the 2009 killing of anti-corruption lawyer Magnitsky - probably beaten to death, according to the Kremlin's own human rights council.
A US Senate panel in June approved a bill that would require the United States to deny visas and freeze the assets of Russians linked to Magnitsky's death, along with other human rights abusers in Russia or anywhere in the world.
"Ambassador (Alexander) Yakovenko will demand official explanation from the heads of the Foreign Office on Monday on the September 2 Sunday Times article on the alleged introduction of visa restrictions in regard to the so-called 'Magnitsky list'," RIA quoted the Russian embassy in London as saying.
Moscow has also warned Washington it would retaliate should the U.S. Congress pass the "Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act" named after the 37-year-old, who was awaiting trial on charges of tax evasion and fraud.
His colleagues say the charges were fabricated by police investigators he had accused of stealing $230 million from the state through fraudulent tax returns.
Lawmaker Dominic Raab from Britain's ruling Conservative party, who first requested that London blacklist the same 60 Russian officials targeted by the US bill, told Reuters on Sunday he had not received confirmation that had definitively happened.
Immigration Minister Damian Green said on July 24 that Raab's list had "been sent to the Visa Section in Moscow and will be considered if an entry clearance application is received from any of the named individuals".
President Vladimir Putin, who paid his first visit to Britain in nine years to attend the 2012 London Olympics, has called Magnitsky's death a tragedy, but Moscow expressed outrage with the US Senate panel's approval of the bill as an interference in its internal affairs.