Russia‘s top diplomats are condemning Canada’s decision to impose sanctions on Russia-linked individuals accused of corruption and human rights abuses.
On Friday, Canada invoked the so-called Magnitsky law to slap sanctions on 52 people, including 30 linked to Russia, who were accused of tax fraud by whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky. Magnitsky, a lawyer and accountant, was arrested for tax evasion and died in a Moscow prison in 2009.
“Canada’s decision to extend its anti-Russia sanctions under the false pretext of hypocritically championing human rights is absolutely pointless and reprehensible,” read a Friday statement from the Russian embassy in Ottawa.
The statement accused Canada of pandering to hedge fund manager Bill Browder, a client of Magnitsky’s who has lobbied Western governments to pass laws targeting corrupt Russian citizens. The Russian government says Browder is himself guilty of tax fraud.
“Isolating itself from one of the key world powers to please Russophobic lobby, while praising an international fraudster sponsoring his personal vendetta, brings Canadian foreign policy back to the narrow black-and-white worldview inconsistent with modern geopolitics,” said the statement.
Russia has swiftly responded by barring dozens of Canadians from entering Russia, the statement continued, adding that any further Canadian sanctions would prompt a response that “will be imminent and reciprocal in terms of quantity and quality.”
It was a sentiment echoed by Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Mikhail Zakharova. In a press release posted to the ministry’s website, Zakharova said Canada’s Magnitsky law was “anti-Russian,” and said he hoped Canada’s leaders would come to their senses.
The law, the official name of which is the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act, won final approval in Parliament two weeks ago. It allows the government to freeze Canadian assets of corrupt foreign officials and prevent them from entering Canada.
Russian President Vladimir Putin responded to the law’s passing by accusing Canada of playing “unconstructive political games.”