MOSCOW, July 9 (RIA Novosti) - Moscow has not received any official notification from Britain that Russian officials suspected of involvement in the death in custody of a high-profile lawyer have been banned from entering the UK, Russia’s foreign minister said on Tuesday.
British authorities “have repeatedly stressed they are not going to introduce any such lists,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov added, referring to the US initiative targeting individuals suspected of being involved in the 2009 death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in pre-trial detention in a Russian prison.
On Monday, British newspaper the Daily Telegraph reported that the UK Home Office had “issued the bans after the US Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) published a list of the 60 officials in June last year.”
The Daily Telegraph report highlighted an April 18 written answer to a question from UK lawmaker, and long-time campaigner for Britain to adopt its own “Magnitsky list,” Dominic Raab asking if anyone accused by the US CSCE in 2012 of being involved in Magnitsky’s death had visited the UK.
UK Immigration Minister Mark Harper replied that, although the UK does not, as a rule, disclose records relating to arrivals, the “Home Office Special Cases Directorate is already aware of the individuals on the list and has taken the necessary measures to prevent them being issued visas for travel to the UK.”
After the US adopted the Magnitsky Act in December 2012, Russia responded with its own sanctions on US officials and by banning US citizens from adopting Russian children. The European Union is currently considering adopting its own version of the “Magnitsky list.”
Speaking on Tuesday, Lavrov suggested that media reports claiming that the UK was implementing “Magnitsky list” visa bans could be “provocation” designed to “divert public attention” from other “hot topics” in European and international politics.
After the Telegraph story broke, the UK Home Office received numerous media requests to comment – it has not publicly clarified its position.
Britain’s Minister for Europe David Lidington has repeatedly raised the UK’s concerns over the Magnitsky case.
In an April 13 parliamentary discussion, Lidington noted that “it is a declared policy of the present Government that people against whom there is credible evidence of complicity in the abuse of human rights, should not normally expect to be granted admission to the United Kingdom.”
Speaking in 2011, British Prime Minister David Cameron said “Of course there are things on which I think Russia is in the wrong. The Litvinenko case. Magnitsky. Khodorkovsky.” However, he went on to say that “we should not allow them to define and limit the whole relationship.”
Former Hermitage Capital lawyer Sergei Magnitsky was arrested in 2008 on tax evasion charges after exposing what he believed was a $230 million tax fraud carried out by Russian officials. He spent the next 12 months in pre-trial detention, and died in disputed circumstances in 2009.