A senior United Russia official blasted on Monday the U.K.’s alleged enforcement of a visa blacklist for Russian officials involved in suspected human rights abuse.
Andrei Vorobyov, the leader of the ruling party’s parliamentary faction, called the “Magnitsky List,” named after a Russian lawyer who died in pretrial detention in 2009 while investigating alleged official tax fraud, “perverse” and said it was based on subjective factors.
“I believe that there is a very subjective factor here, and for someone it was very convenient,” he said at a press conference.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has also promised to respond accordingly to the news.
"We have focused our attention on this publication and have asked the British government to either confirm or deny the new information," said ministry representative Alexander Lukashevich. "Our reaction will depend on the response [from British officials]."
British newspaper The Sunday Times reported on Monday that the British Foreign Office sent the list to its embassy in Moscow. The newspaper cited as proof of its existence a mention in a letter from the Minister of State for Immigration, Damian Green, to a British lawmaker.
The British Embassy in Moscow, however, has neither confirmed nor denied the introduction of the list. Asked by RIA Novosti for comment, a representative of the Eembassy said that, as a rule, the U.K. denies foreign citizens for whom there is "credible evidence" of involvement in human rights abuses entry into the country.
Russia’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, Alexander Yakovenko, said on Sunday he would demand an explanation on the matter from the Foreign Office.
The list, a brainchild of U.S. Senator Benjamin Cardin, comprises prosecutors, judges, investigators and other Russian officials accused of illegally putting Magnitsky in detention and denying him release or sufficient medical help until his death.
The officials are not banned from entry outright, but embassy staff is to take the list into consideration when reviewing visa applications from them, the report said.
Magnitsky, who worked for Hermitage Capital, accused Russian tax officials of embezzling $230 million on tax returns through a hijacked firm managed by Hermitage.
He was himself arrested on tax evasion charges his supporters call fabricated and died after 11 months in detention. An official check blamed his death on health problems, but the Kremlin’s human rights council said in 2011 he was severely beaten by prison guards before his death.
No state officials were punished over Magnitsky’s death, and the Russian Investigative Committee is pursuing a posthumous case against him.
The case has generated international backlash, with the United States and several other Western countries currently mulling their own “Magnitsky lists” despite harshly worded objections from the Russian government.