Russia bans U.S. officials in tit-for-tat visa row

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 22, 2011 6:43 AM
Russia bans U.S. officials in tit-for-tat visa row

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia has banned some U.S. officials from visiting the country in response to U.S. visa restrictions imposed on Russian officials over the death in prison death of hedge fund lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, Russia's Foreign Ministry said on Saturday.

"On the basis of reciprocity, the list of U.S. citizens whose stay in the Russian Federation was considered undesirable was approved," Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said on the ministry's website.

The ministry declined to comment when contacted by Reuters.

Lukashevich said the list included "high-ranking officials accessorial to ... crimes," such as "de facto legalized tortures in American special jails, kidnapping ... continuous imprisonment of detainees in Guantanamo, uninvestigated killings of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan."

The State Department said in July it had placed visa restrictions on Russian officials accused of involvement Magnitsky's death in a Russian prison as he awaited trial on tax evasion and fraud charges in 2009.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said the U.S. visa restrictions were unjustified and it would respond with "adequate measures."

Lukashevich said that the list of U.S. citizens barred from entering Russia could be expanded, without giving further details. "If the U.S. party follows the path of visa confrontation, we will be prompted to expand the list."

The statement, which confirms reports by Russian media, is another sign that the "reset" aimed at improving U.S.-Russian relations under President Barack Obama and Russian president Dmitry Medvedev is under threat.

(Writing by Andrey Ostroukh; Editing by Louise Ireland)