US rejects Russia visa blacklist
The United States on Tuesday criticized Russia's step to bar high-ranking US officials in a tit-for-tat blacklist, saying that Washington had an obligation to act on human rights concerns.
Russia on Saturday issued a list of US officials who would not be issued visas due to "human rights crimes," three months after the United States took a similar step for Russian officials linked to the death of a young lawyer.
"We do not believe that there's any basis for visa restrictions of this kind against US officials," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.
"The reasons for our visa restrictions are very clear. Under the US Immigration and Nationality Act, we're required to deny visas to individuals involved in serious human rights violations," she said.
The State Department in July said it would deny visas to some Russian officials over the case of Sergei Magnitsky, a 37-year-old lawyer whose death from an untreated illness after 11 months in a Moscow jail came to symbolize problems in the Russian judicial system.
Russia said it was responding to "political provocation" and "moralizing" by the United States and announced the blacklist as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited ex-Soviet Central Asia.
Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said the blacklist included US officials involved in "uninvestigated murders of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan" and the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.
The retaliatory blacklists come despite the so-called "reset" policy launched by President Barack Obama's administration, which has sought cooperation and lower tensions with Russia.
© 2011 AFP