Dozens of Canadians have been blacklisted by Russia in response to Canada’s decision to sanction 30 Russian officials, but Russia won’t reveal the names on the list.
“We can confirm that a large number of Canadian political actors pursuing a toxic Russophobic agenda were blacklisted,” Kirill Kalinin, a spokesman for the Russian embassy in Ottawa said in an email to Global News.
“While retaining the sovereign right of disclosure, Russia will respond imminently and reciprocally in case the Canadian authorities continue playing silly and pointless ‘sanctions’ games.'”
READ MORE: Russia slams Canadian ‘Magnitsky law’ sanctions as ‘pointless and reprehensible’
The announcement from Russia comes after Canada first invoked the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act, the so-called Magnitsky law, which allows the federal government to impose travel bans and freeze the assets of individuals who are responsible for gross violations of international human rights or acts of significant corruption.
Canada imposed targeted sanctions on 52 individuals, which included 30 Russian nationals and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, among others.
Bill Browder, a British citizen and prominent critic of Vladimir Putin, said Russia has been caught “completely off-guard” by the Canadian sanctions and is scrambling to respond.
“They are going to have to start doing their own homework to figure out which Canadians they don’t like,” Browder told Global News. “They are lying about having a blacklist in place. It doesn’t exist at the moment, just the concept of one.”
“The Russians are scrambling to prepare one,” he said. “Normally these Western sanctions lists takes months, if not years to put in place. They were expecting plenty of time to prepare their sanctions list.”
READ MORE: Russia issues arrest warrant for Putin critic Bill Browder after Canada passes sanctions law
Browder has been at the forefront of the fight to pass legislation sanctioning people who abuse human rights in countries around the world.
The Magnitsky law, which Canada passed in October, is named after Sergei Magnitsky, a Moscow lawyer who was detained, tortured and killed in prison in 2009 after shining a spotlight on tax fraud and corruption involving Russian officials.
Conservative MP Tony Clement called the blacklist an attempt at “intimidation.”
“It’s kind of a bizarre way to intimidate when you don’t even know who’s on the list,” Clement told reporters. “These are the games that Putin plays, right, and so I think we have to be steadfast. We have to stand on our principles, which is what Parliament did when it passed the Magnitsky Act.”
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The Russian Foreign Ministry has said the list of Canadians prohibited from entering Russia “contains dozens of names.”
“The list is long and contains dozens of names ‒ the Russophobic Canadian citizens that have been systematically destroying bilateral relations,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement Nov. 3.
Conservative MP James Bezan, who was targeted by Russian sanctions in in 2014, said called this blacklist threat “a feeble scare tactic” and more “propaganda by the Russian Federation.”
“I have never heard of anyone outside of the 13 politicians and officials that were banned in 2014 being denied entry by Moscow because they were included on this nameless list,” Bezan said in a statement. “I find it odd that only Russia has reacted this way to sanctions that target officials responsible corruption and human rights abuses around the world.”
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Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland’s office didn’t immediately respond Tuesday to a request for comment.
Freeland has previously said “Canada is determined to protect human rights and combat corruption worldwide.
“Canada will take action against individuals who have profited from acts of significant corruption or who have been involved in gross violations of human rights,” Freeland said Friday.
While the names of Canadians blacklisted have been withheld, Browder suspects Russia will target those in Parliament who supported the Magnitsky Act, if they aren’t already on a sanctions list.
“This was a campaign we’ve been working on for seven years,” he said. “It was a long, hard fight, but it was great vindication for Magnitsky’s family and for all of his colleagues.
“Canada is being viewed as being a major leader now in the world of human rights, in a time in history when the world is desperate for leaders.”