The sanctions law is named for Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in prison in 2009 after uncovering massive tax fraud by Russian officials. He had been beaten and denied treatment for other serious illnesses.
New to the sanctions list is deputy chief prosecutor Victor Grin, who opened new cases against Magnitsky several years after the lawyer died.
The two Chechnya officials added to the list, Deputy Interior Minister Apti Alaudinov and chief of presidential administration Magomed Daudov, have been implicated in the kidnapping and beating of Chechen activist Ruslan Kutayev.
There are now 34 names on this sanctions list. Criteria for inclusion include people involved in the abuse of Magnitsky and others responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture or what the State Department calls other “gross violations of human rights” against activists and whistleblowers in the Russian Federation.
Any U.S. assets they had are blocked, and they cannot enter the United States.
A senior State Department official said the sanctions list could have the effect of putting Russian officials on notice they may be held personally liable if they are involved in gross violations of human rights.
“Specifically Grin was responsible for opening two posthumous cases against Magnitsky — they put Magnitsky on trial well after he was dead, which astonished us; we didn’t know it was possible,” the senior State Department official said.
He said the designation of the individuals could provoke Russian retaliation, but the United States was committed to continuing the process.
Russia vowed in May to retaliate against what it called “unfounded” U.S. sanctions imposed under the Magnitsky Act.
Washington has not linked the sanctions to those it has imposed over Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and unrest in eastern Ukraine.
Magnitsky died in 2009 and was last year convicted posthumously of tax evasion.