Russia introduces US visa blacklist in lawyer row

Russia said it had put high-ranking US officials implicated in "human rights crimes" on a visa blacklist.

Moscow: Russia said on Saturday it had put
high-ranking US officials implicated in "human rights crimes"
on a visa blacklist, saying that list would grow if Washington
continued to put pressure on Moscow.

Washington had earlier outraged Moscow by banning visas
for an unspecified number of Russian officials linked to the
2009 death in prison of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, which became
a symbol of abuses in the Russian judicial system.

Moscow`s announcement of the visa black list was made
during US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton`s visit to
ex-Soviet Central Asia and comes as Russia`s tough-talking
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is gearing up to reclaim the
presidency in March elections.

Many fear his comeback will a deal a blow to the "reset"
in relations championed by his youthful protégé, incumbent
President Dmitry Medvedev who prides himself on building
rapport with US President Barack Obama.

The Russian foreign ministry released a statement today
saying it had made good on its earlier promise to put together
its own list in response to "political provocation" against

"Relying on the principle of reciprocity, a list of US
nationals whose stay in Russia is deemed undesirable has been
put together," the foreign ministry said.

Moscow accused Washington of "moralising" and reeled off
a number of what it said were US rights violations such as
"uninvestigated murders of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan"
and "indefinite detention of prisoners in Guantanamo".

The list "contains high-ranking Washington officials
implicated in the aforementioned high-profile human rights
crimes," said the foreign ministry without providing any

The statement warned that if Washington continued to put
pressure on Moscow, the list would be expanded to include more
US officials.

"A line has not been drawn -- if the US side continues on
its path of visa confrontation we will be forced to expand
that list," the statement said.

Moscow released the foreign ministry statement as the top
US diplomat was visiting the impoverished ex-Soviet nation of

Asked to comment on Moscow`s tit-for-tat move, a US
official accompanying Hillary said that Washington "will
work on this." The official, who spoke on condition of
anonymity, did not provide further details.

Analysts say US-Russia ties may take a beating as
Medvedev is gearing up to leave the Kremlin next year and
Obama faces a tough re-election bid in 2012.


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