US starts a new 'cold war' over Magnitsky affair: Furious Russia vows to list Americans blocked from entering country, after US votes to name and shame corrupt officials

Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs described 'biased approach' as 'nothing but a vindictive desire to counter Russia in world affairs'

Moscow

One of Russia's top foreign policy officials responded furiously and promised that Russia would indeed answer with its own list of Americans to be banned from entry to Russia.

"The reciprocal list will be fairly significant, if we name those behind Guantanamo, Abu-Ghraib, and the CIA secret jails, Mikhail Margelov, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of Russia's Federation Council.

"The list will include those who have violated human rights [in the Middle East], and that would be according to global opinion, and not just the opinion of this Mr Browder, who some experts feel is simply using the Magnitsky List as a diversion."

However, according to a poll by the Levada Centre, an independent Russian polling agency, 39 percent of Russians who had heard about the Magnitsky Act approved of it, rising to 45% among Muscovites. 

Yesterday the US Senate voted to name and shame Russian officials involved in corruption and to forbid them from travelling to America or investing there.

The overwhelming vote in favour of the new law prompted a furious response from Moscow – as well as demands from two former British Foreign Secretaries, Sir Malcolm Rifkind and David Miliband, for a similar ban to be introduced by the UK.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs hit back, describing the “biased approach” as “nothing but a vindictive desire to counter Russia in world affairs”.

The Ministry published a series of furious remarks on its official Twitter feed: “It is perplexing and preposterous to hear human rights complaints from the US, where torture and kidnapping are legal in the 21st century. Apparently, Washington has forgotten what year this is and still thinks the Cold War is going on.

“The US decision to impose visa and financial sanctions on certain Russian citizens is like something out of the theatre of the absurd. Obviously, US passage of the ‘Magnitsky Law’ will adversely affect the prospects of bilateral cooperation.”

Sir Malcolm and Mr Miliband sit on opposite sides in the House of Commons, but both believe Britain needs to take a much more public stance against corruption and human rights abuses in Russia.

The American bill, which was passed by 92 to 4 votes in favour, is dubbed the “Magnitsky Law” – named after Sergei Magnitksy, a Moscow lawyer who died in Russian custody in 2009 after alleging that a circle of interior and tax ministry officials had conspired in a $230 million tax fraud scam.

Earlier this year, British MPs overwhelmingly passed a motion calling on the Government to bring in a British equivalent of the US legislation. But it has been fiercely resisted by Foreign Office officials, who fear that a public banned list would upset relations with Moscow.

But with President Obama now likely to sign the new law into effect today, British politicians are putting renewed pressure on Downing Street to act against corrupt officials who enjoy their ill-gotten wealth in London with few consequences.

In an interview with The Independent, Sir Malcolm Rifkind said Russian officials who are known to be corrupt should be banned. “The argument is that these individuals are criminals or are linked to criminal organisations and they have quite expensive lifestyles which they can’t fully enjoy in Russia,” he said. “Half the satisfaction they achieve is by being able to travel to a number of western countries. It’s affecting them where it hurts.”

He continued: “It’s not an action against the Russian government, because in theory they ought to be equally adamant to get hold of the people responsible for defrauding the Russian taxpayer and Russian government of billions of roubles.”

Mr Miliband, meanwhile, said Britain should at least explore the feasibility of a banned list now that Washington has passed its own law. “The Magnitsky case was a human tragedy but also raised profound questions for the Russian state,” he said.

“The Bill going through the US Congress about human rights abuses around the world - not just in Russia - should rouse the British government to look at what can be done here to follow suit.”

During the debate on Capitol Hill, Senators John McCain and Ben Cardin, a senior Republican Democrat duo who have pioneered so-called Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, explained why a banned list was needed.

The act itself would normalise America’s trade relations with Russia, but allow certain officials to be blocked if they were involved in corruption or human rights abuses. Senators Cardin and McCain ideally want the law to apply to all countries but the House of Representatives have only voted in favour of it affecting Russia.

“There are still many people who look at the Magnitsky Act as anti-Russia,” said McCain. “I disagree. I believe it is pro-Russia. I believe it is pro-Russia because this legislation is about the rule of law and human rights and accountability, which are values that Russians hold dear.”

Moscow, however, has responded furiously to the bill and has threatened to bring in its own banned list of US officials involved in human rights abuses such as Guantanamo Bay.

But Dominic Raab, the Tory MP, who has led calls for a British version of the Magnitsky Act, says the UK can no longer afford to be afraid of Russian reprisals. “It shouldn’t be viewed as a controversial request,” he said. “What we are asking for is a piece of legislation that stands up for human rights in Russia and says you can’t have blood on your hands and then come to Britain to buy up properties and shop for Christmas on the Kings Road.”

Magnitsky case: the key players

Sergei Magnitsky

The lawyer tasked with investigating the alleged fraud against Hermitage. Died in prison in 2009 after he was beaten and prison officials refused him treatment for a medical condition.

Dmitry Klyuev

Russian businessman, former owner of a bank that received the money from the tax rebates. Denies all knowledge of the fraud.

Bill Browder

American-born British founder and CEO of Hermitage Capital; has fought tirelessly in favour of a “Magnitsky list”.

Andrei Pavlov

The lawyer that Hermitage  Capital  says gave Klyuev legal support in a number of fraudulent deals. He denies this, and says he is friends with Klyuev.

Olga Stepanova

Stepanova was in charge of Tax Office 28 in Moscow, where she authorised $230m tax rebate. Bought luxury property despite her modest official salary.

Vladlen Stepanov

Businessman. He claims no involvement in fraud, says he divorced Stepanova several years ago and all money he has is his own. Partners with Alexander Perepilichnyy.

Arts & Entertainment
A stranger calls: Martin Freeman in ‘Fargo’
tvReview: New 10-part series brims with characters and stories

Arts & Entertainment
Shaun Evans as Endeavour interviews a prisoner as he tries to get to the bottom of a police cover up
Review: Second series comes to close with startling tale of police corruption and child abuse
Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
football Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
Arts & Entertainment
Charlotte Brontë, the English novelist, poet and the eldest of the three Bronte sisters who lived into adulthood, has been celebrated with a Google Doodle depicting her most famous novel, Jane Eyre.
arts + ents "Reader, they doodled her".

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Schwarzenegger winning Mr. Universe 1969
arts + entsCan you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
News
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
Arts & Entertainment
The star of the sitcom ‘Miranda’ is hugely popular with mainstream audiences
TVMiranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Sport
Manchester United manager David Moyes looks on during his side's defeat to Everton
footballBaines and Mirallas score against United as Everton keep alive hopes of a top-four finish
Sport
Tour de France 2014Sir Rodney Walker on organising the UK stages of this year’s race
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Brown Findlay as Mary Yellan in ‘Jamaica Inn’
TVJessica Brown Findlay on playing the spirited heroine of Jamaica Inn
News
YouTube clocks up more than a billion users a month
mediaEuropean rival Dailymotion certainly thinks so
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents
Arts & Entertainment
‘Self-Portrait Worshipping Christ’ (c943-57) by St Dunstan
books How British artists perfected the art of the self-portrait
News
People
News
Sir Cliff Richard is to release his hundredth album at age 72
PEOPLE
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Geography Teacher

£130 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Secondary Geography Teacher Lo...

Do you want to work in Education?

£55 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Are you a dynamic and energeti...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: SEN TAs, LSAs and Support Workers needed...

Private Client Senior Manager - Sheffield

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: The Sheffield office of this...

Day In a Page

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter: The man who could have been champion of the world - and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him

The man who could have been champion of the world

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him
Didn’t she do well?

Didn’t she do well?

Miranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

In Iraq, mafiosi already run almost the entire oil output of the south of the country
Before they were famous

Before they were famous

Can you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is genius

Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is a stroke of genius

Series is brimming with characters and stories all its own
How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players