MOSCOW – Russia sternly warned Britain on Monday that it will respond tit-for-tat if London imposes any travel restrictions that would target Russian officials allegedly involved in the prison death of a Russian lawyer.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said that Moscow asked London about a Sunday Times report claiming that British authorities had compiled a list of 60 Russian officials who could be denied entry over their alleged involvement in Sergei Magnitsky's death in November 2009.
"Obviously if London introduces any sanctions against Russian citizens Russia will respond appropriately in line with diplomatic practice," Lukashevich said.
Magnitsky died in custody of untreated pancreatitis after being arrested by the same Russian government officials he had accused of corruption.
His case further tarnished Russia's rights record and prompted the U.S. House of Representatives to pass a bill in June targeting Russian officials involved in the case. The Kremlin has responded angrily to the American action and threatened to take countermeasures.
Russia's ties with Britain already were strained by the 2006 poisoning death of Alexander Litvinenko, a former security agent turned Kremlin critic.
Litvinenko, who died after ingesting radioactive polonium, made a deathbed statement blaming Russia's President Vladimir Putin for the poisoning. Russia has rejected his accusations and dismissed the British demand to extradite the main suspect in the case, former KGB officer Andrei Lugovoi, who denies any involvement.
After a long freeze on high-level contacts, British Prime Minister David Cameron paid a visit to Moscow last September, and he met again with Putin last month when the Russian leader visited during the London Olympics. But despite their statements about needing to improve business ties, political differences have continued to strain British-Russian relations.