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Russia

Russia-U.S. Relations Grow Colder With Tit-For-Tat Over Banned Officials Lists

A strong blow to bilateral relations
A strong blow to bilateral relations
Dmitri Tikhonov, Maria Efimova, Sergei Strokan, Genadii Sisoev, Elena Chernenko

MOSCOW - On Friday, the United States made public its list of Russian officials who are barred to enter the U.S. under the Magnitsky Act.

The law imposes visa and banking sanctions on Russians officials accused of human rights violations. It is named after Sergei Magnitsky, a corruption lawyer and whistleblower who was accused of tax evasion and died in prison in 2009, after being beaten and denied medical treatment.

There are 18 names on the final American list, far less than had originally been suspected by Russia. Four of the 18 officials are high-ranking officials; the other 14 are prosecutors and special operations officers. The majority of the people on the list were implicated in the arrest and death of Sergei Magnitsky.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the list “absurd”, saying it delivered “a strong blow to bilateral relations.”

Even before the list was published, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had said that no matter what the contents of the list were, the simple act of publishing the list would be bad for Russian-American relations.

“We, of course, didn’t let this happen without an answer, and we reacted to this interference in our internal affairs in the appropriate way,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared on Saturday. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation’s website has been updated today to include a list of Americans who are forbidden from entering Russian territory.”

“Blatant blackmail”

The Ministry explained that “unlike the American list, which is formed arbitrarily, our list primarily includes those who are implicated in legalization of torture and perpetual detentions in Guantanamo prison, to the arrests and kidnapping of Russian citizens.”

The Ministry continued, “the war of lists is not our choice, but we cannot ignore such blatant blackmail. It is time for politicians in Washington to finally understand that there are no prospects in building relations with a country like Russia with the spirit of mentoring and undisguised dictating.”

Several members of the U.S. Congress had lobbied for as many as 280 names to be included on the list of Russians barred from the U.S., and both the CIA and human rights organizations had lobbied for a maximum number of people to be sanctioned. Before the list was published, sources in the Congress had said that President Obama was likely to shy away from such an expansive list for fear of worsening his relationship with the Kremlin.

The list of Americans banned from entering Russia also has 18 names, and includes federal prosecutors, commanders at Guantanamo and several special agents. The Russians had actually been considering 104 names in case the American list was as far-reaching as some feared.

The U.S. government has promised that its own list was not a final one, and that it would be continually updated. The White House also confirmed the existence of a second classified list of Russian officials subject to visa bans only. The names on that list were not made public, but it is already known that, among others, several members of the Russian Parliament are on it, as well as Kremlin-backed Chechen leader Ramzan Kadirov, who is accused of human rights violations, abductions and killings.

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Geopolitics

Utter Pessimism, What Israelis And Palestinians Share In Common

Right now, according to a joint survey of Israelis and Palestinians, hopes for a peaceful solution of coexistence simply don't exist. The recent spate of violence is confirmation of the deepest kind of pessimism on both sides for any solution other than domination of the other.

An old Palestinian protester waves Palestinian flag while he confronts the Israeli soldiers during the demonstration against Israeli settlements in the village of Beit Dajan near the West Bank city of Nablus.

A Palestinian protester confronts Israeli soldiers during the demonstration against Israeli settlements in the West Bank village of Beit Dajan on Jan. 6.

Pierre Haski

-Analysis-

PARIS — Just before the latest outbreak of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, a survey of public opinion among the two peoples provided a key to understanding the current situation unfolding before our eyes.

It was a joint study, entitled "Palestinian-Israeli Pulse", carried out by two research centers, one Israeli, the other Palestinian, which for years have been regularly asking the same questions to both sides.

The result is disastrous: not only is the support for the two-state solution — Israel and Palestine side by side — at its lowest point in two decades, but there is now a significant share of opinion on both sides that favors a "non-democratic" solution, i.e., a single state controlled by either the Israelis or Palestinians.

This captures the absolute sense of pessimism commonly felt regarding the chances of the two-state option ever being realized, which currently appears to be our grim reality today. But the results are also an expression of the growing acceptance on both sides that it is inconceivable for either state to live without dominating the other — and therefore impossible to live in peace.

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