New Magnitsky sanctions hit Russian officials


The Obama administration has blacklisted five Russians, including the government’s chief public investigator, who is a close aide to President Vladimir V. Putin, for human rights abuses, The New York Times reports:

The biggest name added to the list is that of Aleksandr I. Bastrykin, who reports directly to Mr. Putin and has carried out political investigations on his behalf. Mr. Bastrykin, officials said, was complicit in the case of Sergei L. Magnitsky (above), a lawyer who died in detention in murky circumstances in November 2009 and for whom the Magnitsky Act was named.

“Adding a few more names to the sanctions list sends a couple of signals,” said David J. Kramer, the senior director for human rights and democracy at the McCain Institute for International Leadership, a policy research center. “That this administration, as it goes out the door, is still going to implement the Magnitsky Act. It’s also sending a signal to the next administration that it hopes it will continue this policy.”

Senate Foreign Relations Committee senior Democrat Benjamin Cardin of Maryland is leading a group of at least 10 senators planning to unveil legislation on Tuesday that slams Russia with new sanctions, The Washington Post reports:

The sanctions would punish anyone supporting cyber breaches of public and private infrastructure or conducting transactions with Russian defense and intelligence operations. The proposed sanctions also cover investments in Russian energy projects and human rights abuses — provisions to punish the Kremlin and its supporters for Russia’s military intervention on behalf of the Assad government in Syria’s civil war and to reinforce pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine. The measure also authorizes new support for counter-propaganda education at home and democracy promotion in Europe

“Russia has sought to exert influence throughout Europe and Eurasia by overtly and covertly providing resources to political parties, think tanks, and civil society groups that sow distrust in democratic institutions, promote xenophobic and illiberal views,” the bill states. “The Russian government has also engaged in well-documented corruption practices as a means toward undermining and buying influence in these European countries.  This bill would support programs that build the resilience of democratic institutions in Europe against Russian aggression exerted through corruption, propaganda and other forms of political interference.”

A future administration has considerable flexibility in how aggressively it pursues sanctions against Russian officials, The Times adds.

“The bureaucracy will grind away and produce more names, but senior people have the final say,” said Michael A. McFaul, a former American ambassador to Russia and a former Reagan-Fascell fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy.

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