Moscow has warned London that it will retaliate if the reports of a British travel ban on 60 Russian officials over the 2009 death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky is confirmed.
“We have focused our attention on this publication and have asked the official British authorities for confirmation or denial of this information,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement.
“We will determine our reaction depending on the answer. Obviously, if London has introduced some sanctions against Russian citizens, the Russian side will react, as is accepted in diplomatic practice,” he said.
Magnitsky, who worked as a lawyer for the British company Hermitage Capital, died of untreated pancreatitis in a Russian prison on November 16, 2009.
Following his death, the US banned 60 Russian officials from traveling to the country claiming they were involved in Magnitsky’s case, that drew an angry reaction from Moscow.
The list comprises prosecutors, judges, investigators and other Russian officials whom the US accuses of illegal imprisonment of Magnitsky and denying him release or sufficient medical help until his death.
Britain’s reported move to follow the US and impose a ban on those on the list has escalated tensions between London and Moscow.
Andrei Vorobyov, leader of the Russian ruling party’s parliamentary faction, blasted the reported blacklist saying it is “perverse” and based on “subjective factors”.
Over the past years, Moscow-London ties have been tarnished over a range of issues, including the spying controversy between the two sides as well as Britain’s granting of political asylum to Russian dissidents and fugitive capitalists and refusing to extradite them.
The travel ban, if confirmed, will serve as another proof for the Britain’s kowtow to the US to reap its rewards.