First EU country imposes sanctions on Russian officials
03.10.11 @ 09:21
The UK has become the first EU country to impose sanctions on Russian officials implicated in the murder of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, a British daily reports.
Opposition MP Chris Bryant told The Guardian on Saturday (1 October) that UK immigration minister, Damian Green, from the ruling Conservative party, has confirmed they were quietly put on a visa blacklist.
"From conversations with Damian Green, I took it that these people would not be welcomed. It seems now as if there is a secret ban on these people," he said.
"America and countries in the EU are moving towards a full, open public ban on these people. If people are not welcome, they should make it clear they are not welcome, not just privately to the individual, but publicly, because it would make it absolutely clear to anybody else that if you are engaged in corruption and criminality in Russia, you are not coming to Britain," he added.
The British move follows similar action by the US in August and a freeze on related bank accounts by Switzerland in April.
The UK ban means the officials can still enter other EU countries.
But Dutch foreign minister Uri Rosenthal has promised parliament he will look into action at EU level in November if a Russian investigation into the case comes up with nothing. The EU's foreign relations service has also said it "cannot exclude" EU-level steps if the Russian probe is a whitewash.
US authorities have compiled a list of 60 Russian men and women said to have embezzled $230 million in Russian tax money and killed Magnitsky in 2009 when he exposed the scam.
Reacting to the news, Magnitsky's former employer, UK-based venture capitalist Bill Browder told EUobserver: "This [the UK ban] is a very significant development in the whole EU debate about this policy. It seems to me that it will be much harder for the EU to be inactive on EU-wide Magnitsky sanctions now that the US and UK governments have already acted."