The recent steps by western countries introducing travel bans against Russian officials linked to the high-profile death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in 2009 are nothing but a PR stunt, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday.
Magnitsky, who was detained after accusing officials of fraud, reportedly died due to torture and neglect. Two doctors were charged over his death in August last year.
“In line with international law, any country can refuse issuing a visa to anyone from any other country without giving any explanations. That is why all of this is to a large extent a pure PR stunt to show off how 'cool' we are. We are making lists and will not let anyone in,” Lavrov said.
He added that establishing those guilty in the death of Magnitsky is Russia’s internal affair and any outside interference only damages Russia’s relations with its partners.
The United States and Netherlands have placed a visa ban on 60 Russian officials linked to Magnitsky's death. Russia has responded in kind, but neither country has actually implemented the bans so far.
On Monday, Swedish lawmakers requested the government to press for a European asset freeze and travel ban on Russian officials.
British lawmakers urged the implementation of similar sanctions last week, however, the government did not support the motion.
Magnitsky was jailed in November 2008 after exposing a $230-million tax scam involving senior tax and interior ministry officials, while working for the British investment fund Hermitage Capital. He suffered deliberate neglect and beatings before dying in his cell a year later, the Kremlin rights body said in a report last year.