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Russia bans 18 Americans in response to similar US move

Russia has banned 18 Americans from entering the country in response to Washington imposing sanctions on 18 Russians for alleged human rights violations.

The list released Saturday by the Foreign Ministry includes John Yoo, a former U.S. Justice Department official who wrote legal memos authorizing harsh interrogation techniques; David Addington, the chief of staff for former Vice President Dick Cheney; and two former commanders of the Guantanamo Bay detention center: retired Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller and Ad. Jeffrey Harbeson.

The move comes a day after the United States announced its sanctions under the Magnitsky Law, named for Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who was arrested in 2008 for tax evasion after accusing Russian police officials of stealing $230 million in tax rebates. He died in prison the next year, allegedly after being beaten and denied medical treatment.

The Magnitsky law infuriated Russian authorities and the parliament quickly passed a retaliatory measure than banned Americans from adopting Russian children.

The U.S. list includes Artem Kuznetsov and Pavel Karpov, two Russian Interior Ministry officers who put Magnitsky behind bars after he accused them of stealing $230 million from the state. Two tax officials the lawyer accused of approving the fraudulent tax refunds, and several other Interior Ministry officials accused of persecuting Magnitsky were also on the list. Absent were senior officials from Russia's President Vladimir Putin's entourage whom some human rights advocates had hoped to see sanctioned.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement Saturday that the U.S. sanctions struck "a strong blow to bilateral relations and joint trust."

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow said it had no immediate comment.

Also on Russia's list are 14 Americans whom Russia says violated the rights of Russians abroad. It does not give specifics of the alleged violations, but includes several current or former federal prosecutors in the case of Viktor Bout, the Russian arms merchant sentenced in 2012 to 25 years in prison for selling weapons to a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist group.