US risks wrath of Moscow with threat to officials on 'Magnitsky list'
Washington risks inflaming tensions after releasing the names of 18 Russian officials wanted for alleged human rights abuses
Washington risked further inflaming relations with Moscow on Friday by targeting 18 Russian officials for alleged human rights abuses and threatening them with financial sanctions and visa bans.
The names, released by the Treasury, follow the passage of a controversial bill through Congress requiring the US to take retribution against Russians alleged to have been involved in covering up corruption and organised crime.
Known as the Magnitsky Act, after the Russian lawyer and whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky, who was arrested in 2008 for tax evasion after accusing Russian officials of stealing $230m in tax rebates. In prison, Magnitsky was repeatedly beaten and denied medical treatment. He died in 2009 of untreated pancreatitis.
Russia responded angrily to the act, imposing a ban on US adoptions of Russian children as a tit-for-tat measure that marked a new low in recent relations.
Publication of the names on Friday raised fears in Washington that a new row over Magnitsky could damage relations at a sensitive time.
On Thursday, the administration announced that national security adviser Tom Donilon will travel to Moscow this month to discuss co-operation on issues such as Syria and North Korea.
The State Department stressed that the US government was merely "complying with its legislative requirements" in publishing the names.