Sergei Magnitsky
Sergei Magnitsky

Russian news reports say President Dmitry Medvedev has instructed the Foreign Ministry to prepare a response to a move by the United States to impose visa restrictions against Russian officials believed to be responsible for the death of imprisoned lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.

The Interfax news agency says Mr. Medvedev ordered the ministry to prepare similar measures against U.S. citizens.

Interfax quotes Foreign Ministry officials as saying the U.S. action constitutes a violation of the principle of the presumption of innocence.

The ministry on Wednesday said it would not leave such unfriendly steps unanswered, and promised to take adequate measures to protect the rights of Russian citizens against what it called “unjustified moves” by foreign states.

On Tuesday, the U.S. State Department imposed a travel ban on dozens of Russian officials suspected of involvement in Magnitsky’s death. U.S. law requires that visas be denied to anyone accused of human rights violations, including torture.

Magnitsky, who worked for a U.S.-owned investment fund in Russia, 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 in 2009 on what his supporters say were phony tax evasion charges.

He spent nearly one year in jail in poor health, denied the care that his supporters say could have saved his life.

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