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October 21, 2011

Russia Bans US Officials in Diplomatic Dispute

Russia is banning visits by certain U.S. officials in retaliation for Washington's blacklisting of Russian officials allegedly involved in the prison death of a whistleblower.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said on its website Saturday that it is blacklisting unspecified U.S. officials Moscow says were involved in abductions of terrorism suspects, torture of inmates at Guantanamo prison, and killings of civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The move is in response to the U.S. State Department's decision in July to ban dozens of unidentified Russian officials allegedly involved in the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.

Magnitsky was arrested in 2009 for what his supporters said were phony tax evasion charges.  He died nearly a year later at age 37 after prison authorities withheld medical care and possibly life-saving surgery.

U.S. law requires the State Department to deny visas to anyone accused of human rights violations, including torture.

Magnitsky worked for a U.S.-owned investment fund in Russia.  He accused Russian police officials of stealing fund documents as part of a scheme to pocket hundreds of millions of dollars.

Those same police officials arrested Magnitsky, charging him with tax evasion.  He spent nearly a year in jail in poor health, denied the care which could possibly have saved his life.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.