WASHINGTON, December20 (RIA Novosti) – The United States has declined to expand a controversial blacklist of alleged Russian rights abusers in time for the release of its inaugural annual report on the sanctions, a US website reported Thursday evening.
The US State Department had been preparing to add up to 20 new names to the so-called “Magnitsky List” but opted at the last second not to expand the blacklist with the release of the report looming, The Daily Beast cited officials, Congressional sources and experts as saying.
“We had multiple high-level assurances that there had been new names,” a Congressional aide told the website. “Now we hear today that there’s not going to be a new list. There’s no explanation.”
The blacklist is authorized under the Magnitsky Act, a US law designed to punish officials believed to be connected to the 2009 death of whistleblowing Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow jail. The legislation was later broadened to include a range of alleged Russian rights abusers.
The law, which was enacted by US President Barack Obama on December 14, 2012, has been a central factor in the deterioration of ties between the United States and Russia over the past 18 months.
Moscow has repeatedly portrayed the law as US meddling in its internal affairs and has responded in part by banning Americans from adopting Russian children.
The US administration had a December 14 deadline to submit to Congress the annual report on any additions to the blacklist, but had not done so as of late Thursday.
Michael McFaul, the US ambassador to Russia, said last week that additions to the Magnitsky List could be announced by the end of the year.
Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, responded by saying that Moscow would reciprocate with a measured and proportional response should Washington decide to expand the blacklist.
White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden told The Daily Beast on Thursday that even if the report submitted to Congress does not include new names, more Russian officials could be targeted with the sanctions in the future.
“While I can’t speak to the timing of any additional designations — which are not required to occur at the same time as the annual report — a number of cases are under review and the administration is determined to fully implement the Act by making further designations as appropriate,” Hayden was quoted by the website as saying.
The US Embassy in Russia would not comment on the reports, saying the White House or the Department of State would speak on the matter.
Washington published the names of 18 Russians on the Magnitsky List in April, though no senior officials were slapped with the visa and financial sanctions specified in the law.
Russia responded by issuing its own blacklist of 18 US officials it claims are complicit in rights abuses.
Updated with US Embassy's comments