The U.S. Department of State said on Thursday it was not notified by Russia about a retaliatory blacklist compiled in response to Washington's decision to impose travel restrictions on Russian officials over the Magnitsky case.
Russian business daily Kommersant said on Wednesday Russia prepared its own blacklist of U.S. officials who will be banned from travelling to Russia in response to a U.S. blacklist of Russians linked to the controversial death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in a pre-trial detention center in November 2009.
"We are aware of the reports in Russian media about a visa ban Russian authorities have purportedly put in place," a State Department official told RIA Novosti in a written response. "We have not heard formally from the Russian government on this issue."
The Russian blacklist consists of several dozen U.S. officials, including those linked to the trials of Russian businessman Viktor Bout, who is prosecuted in the United States on charges of arms trafficking, and Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot convicted of drug dealing in the United States, Kommersant said, quoting unidentified officials.
Russia earlier said the U.S. restrictions, imposed in late July without an official notification to Moscow, will "become a strong irritant in Russian-U.S. relations." Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered the Foreign Ministry to respond to the move.
Magnitsky, a lawyer for Hermitage Capital investment fund, died in November 2009 after almost a year in Moscow's notorious Matrosskaya Tishina pretrial detention center. He was detained on tax evasion charges shortly after announcing he had uncovered massive fraud by police investigators. In July, a Kremlin rights council said his death was likely to have been the result of a beating and that the charges against him were fraudulent.