Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

U.S. Issues Penalties against Russians for Rights Violations

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

U.S. Issues Penalties against Russians for Rights Violations

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration Friday imposed sanctions on about two dozen Russians for human rights violations under a new law that has soured relations with Moscow, but it avoided targeting many high-level figures in President Vladimir V. Putin's government.

The administration identified 18 Russians on an unclassified list of those who will be barred from traveling to the United States and have their assets here frozen. All but two of them are tied to the death of Sergei L. Magnitsky, a lawyer who was investigating official corruption, only to be arrested and die in custody. Another smaller group is included on a classified list, officials said.

The administration was informing the Russian government and Congress about its decisions Friday. Under a human rights law Congress passed in December, the administration had until today to name officials to be penalized. But the timing is awkward, with the moves coming just days before President Barack Obama's national security adviser, Thomas E. Donilon, plans to travel to Moscow to explore next steps in a relationship that has turned rocky.

The pending sanctions have irritated the Russian government, which responded to passage of the original law by blocking Americans from adopting Russian orphans. Administration officials are bracing for further retaliation with the release of the list, and they recognized that it would complicate Mr. Donilon's visit. But they decided to proceed with the trip anyway because Mr. Obama is due to meet in June with Mr. Putin on the sidelines of an economic summit meeting in Northern Ireland and then travel to Russia in September.

"We will respond to it, and the American side knows it," Russian foreign minister Sergei V. Lavrov said at a news conference Friday during a visit to Switzerland. "The timing is bad." The head of an international affairs committee in the Russian Parliament told a Russian newspaper that Moscow's response would be "commensurate. …

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