Washington/Moscow: The US blacklisted five Russians, including Russia’s chief public investigator who is a close aide to President Vladimir Putin, for human rights abuses, in a move described by Russia as the “inadequacy” of outgoing President Barack Obama.
“The inadequacy of Washington’s leaders, who have fallen into a sanctions mania, is obvious to all,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told RIA Novosti news agency on Tuesday.
The sanctions announced by the US Treasury Department on Monday were imposed on Russians for violations of the 2012 Magnitsky Act, a bill passed by the US Congress intending to punish Russian officials responsible for death of Sergei L. Magnitsky, an anti-corruption lawyer, in Moscow prison in 2009.
The biggest name added to the list was that of Aleksandr I. Bastrykin, who reports directly to Putin and has carried out political investigations on his behalf, said a report in the New York Times.
The Obama administration has till date sanctioned 44 Russians under the Magnitsky Act. The sanctions announced include a ban on travel to the US and a freezing of any assets held by or transactions with American financial institutions.
In addition to Bastrykin, the Obama administration targeted Andrei K. Lugovoi and Dmitri V. Kovtun, two Russian intelligence officers who the British authorities said poisoned a fellow Russian spy, Alexander V. Litvinenko, in London in 2006.
Also added to the list are Stanislav Gordievsky and Gennady Plaksin, two lower-level officials, who the US said were involved in the cover-up of Magnitsky’s death, said the New York Times.
According to the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, the White House showed “unworthy vengeance” with the sanctions, and the Obama administration in the remaining 10 days in office could take more steps to obstruct the work of the new President Donald Trump.
He added that the Obama administration experienced “anger for its candidate’s loss in the presidential election and the desire to seek out those responsible for the defeat anywhere, but not at home.”
The US intelligence community, including the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National Security Agency (NSA), has recently published a report claiming Russia’s involvement in activities, including hacker attacks, aimed at promoting Trump to the presidency.
Washington, in December, had expelled 35 Russian diplomats in retaliation over presidential poll hacking.
However, the Kremlin had rejected such accusations and on Tuesday expressed its readiness to further cooperate with the US.
“The sanctions remain an element which affects our bilateral relations extremely negatively, but at the same time even in conditions of sanctions, without doubt, Moscow would welcome and be ready for any opportunities for dialogue,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.