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British MPs push for Russian sanctions over lawyer death

British lawmakers on Wednesday urged the government to impose sanctions on Russian officials implicated in the death of a lawyer for a British firm who claimed to have uncovered corruption in Moscow.

MPs in Britain’s lower House of Commons backed Conservative Dominic Raab’s motion to push the government into implementing asset freezes and travel bans on those suspected of involvement in the killing of Sergei Magnitsky in Russia.

Magnitsky was working for London-based Hermitage Capital Management when he alleged that he had found evidence of corruption among senior Moscow officials.

On tabling the motion, Raab said: “Between 2007 and 2008, working for Hermitage Capital, he exposed the biggest tax fraud in Russian history, worth $230 million (175 million euros).

“Magnitsky stayed on to make a stand for the rule of law in Russia and strike a blow against the breathtaking corruption that has taken place there,” added Raab. “That bravery cost him his life.”

Three former foreign secretaries — Conservative Malcolm Rifkind and Labour’s Jack Straw and David Miliband — backed the motion.

Raab said he was “delighted” by the parliamentary support and hoped the government would be “spurred to take a lead” against the “henchmen of tyrants and despots and deny them the privilege of setting foot on British soil”.

The British politician, a former Foreign Office lawyer, described Magnitsky as part of a “noble Russian tradition of dissidents who stood up for the rule of law, democratic reform and free speech.”

Magnitsky was arrested on tax charges in 2008 and his health worsened after eight months in prison.

Raab claimed that instead of receiving treatment, the Russian lawyer was handcuffed and beaten in hospital, where he was later found dead by doctors.

Russian investigators cleared all 60 suspects and many have since been promoted and decorated.

Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt said Magnitsky’s case “serves as a stark reminder of the human rights situation in Russia, and questions about the rule of law there.”

Raab’s motion was not opposed by the government.