MOSCOW - The Obama administration is preparing to announce sanctions on 18 Russian citizens for their alleged role in human rights abuses, ABC News has learned. Those individuals will be subject to travel and financial restrictions.
According to a U.S. official, the names of the so-called Magnitsky List will be made public today. The names will be first published by the Treasury Department and the State Department plans to make a formal announcement shortly thereafter.
The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because members of Congress were still being notified.
The official also said a classified annex will be included with the Congressionally mandated list, though it is unclear if it included any more names.
The inclusion of just 18 people on the list is sure to irk U.S. lawmakers who sponsored the Magnitsky Act, named after the whistle-blowing Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky who died under suspicious circumstances after uncovering massive fraud. Magnitsky was charged with the fraud himself and prosecutors are still going ahead with his trial even after his death.
Some lawmakers had proposed their own lists which included up to 280 officials accused of human rights abuses in Russia.
The U.S. official today hinted the 18 people to be listed were believed to have been connected to Magnitsky's detention and death. The official also pointed out that the Obama administration, which had urged Congress not to pass the Magnitsky Act partly for fear of antagonizing the Russians, already maintains its own list of several dozen Russian citizens who are subject to similar sanctions.
The official also explained the length of the list noting that the Treasury Department needed to ensure those officials met the high bar of ensuring the financial restrictions could hold up in court. Unlike individuals from, say, terror groups which are often slapped with sanctions, Russians could have significant resources with which to challenge the legality of the sanctions.
Ahead of the anticipated announcement in Washington, Russia warned that the publication of the list risked further damaging U.S.-Russia relations. Moscow has prepared its own list of over 100 American officials that would be hit with reciprocal sanctions, though such a list would have a much smaller impact as few Americans hold financial assets under Russian jurisdiction.
The Kremlin said their response would be reciprocal to the American actions, meaning a smaller Magnitsky List would likely result in a smaller retaliatory list. The names of that list have not yet been made public.
In December, Russia enacted its own retaliatory legislation after the Magnitsky Act was passed. That law included Russia's controversial ban on adoptions to the United States.