U.S. adds five Russian officials to human rights sanctions list

WASHINGTON - The United States imposed sanctions on Monday on five Russian officials it accuses of human rights abuses including four it said were involved in the 2009 death in prison of a corruption-fighting Russian lawyer.

The U.S. State and Treasury Departments identified Aleksey Anichin, Boris Kibis, Pavel Lapshov and Oleg Urzhumtsev as Russian officials involved in the death of Sergei Magnitsky, whose death in prison prompted criticism of Russia's human rights record .

A fifth official named on Monday, Yevgeni Antonov, ran a prison in Chechnya notorious for human rights abuses, a senior State Department official said.

As a result of the sanctions, the five are banned from obtaining U.S. visas, and any assets they hold in the United States are frozen.

Magnitsky died at age 37 in 2009 after a year in jail during which he said he was mistreated and denied medical care in an effort to get him to confess to tax evasion and give evidence against a former client. He was found guilty of tax evasion in 2013 in a posthumous trial.

The 2012 U.S. Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act authorizes the United States to sanction those involved in Magnitsky's death and detention or found responsible for certain human rights violations in Russia.

Anichin was head of the Russian Interior Ministry's investigative department and authorized the criminal case under which Magnitsky was arrested, the senior State Department official said. Lapshov was head of the Russian Interior Ministry's investigative department of organized criminal activity, while Kibis and Urzhumtsev were involved in the posthumous prosecution of Magnitsky, the official said.

Monday's addition to the list raises the number of people sanctioned under the 2012 law to 39, State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.

Though few if any assets have been frozen as a result of the designations, the actions "show the operational level of Russian officials that they can and will be held personally accountable for just following orders," the State Department official said.