The Trump administration is sanctioning five high-profile individuals under the Magnitsky Act, the Treasury Department announced Wednesday, a move that a top Kremlin critic says is likely to rile Russia.
Three of the five people facing sanctions played a significant role in the $230 million tax fraud scheme uncovered by Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who was arrested in 2008 and died in a Moscow jail. Treasury also designated Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov for extrajudicial killings and torture, among other human rights violations. The 2012 law allows the U.S. government to freeze the assets of designated human rights abusers and ban them from entering the U.S.
Wednesday’s sanctions fly in the face of Kremlin efforts to have the law reversed under Trump, Bill Browder told TWS. Magnitsky was an auditor for Browder’s investment firm that had holdings in Russia; the pair had worked together to expose Russian corruption before Browder was kicked out of the country in 2006.
“Putin’s single largest foreign policy priority is to stop the Magnitsky Act,” said Browder, who led the push for the law’s passage. “The fact that the Trump administration has continued to implement it is a significant sign that Putin is not getting what he wants.”
The designations come amid controversy over a 2016 meeting that Trump officials attended with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and Russian lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin. Donald Trump Jr. agreed to the meeting after being offered incriminating information on Hillary Clinton, which was described by an intermediary as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” Veselnitskaya has said that her goal was to lobby Trump officials against the Magnitsky Act.
Browder said the Kremlin’s efforts to get the law overturned had failed. “She was there on behalf of Putin to try to repeal the Magnitsky Act, and whatever attempts they made didn’t work.”
The U.S. government has announced Magnitsky designations every year in December since 2013, he said, and Wednesday’s sanctions show continuity between administrations.
“The question was whether there would be any change in this policy from one administration to the other,” Browder said. “The fact that it’s been done on schedule with real names on it is a very significant development.”
Browder highlighted the designation of Andrei Pavlov, describing him as the “principal architect for the scam that led to the murder of Magnitsky and the cover-up afterwards.” Yulia Mayorova and Alexei Sheshnya were also sanctioned over their role in the scheme uncovered by Magnitsky, according to Treasury.
Wednesday’s designations bring the total number of people sanctioned under the act to 49. But Browder says there’s more to be done.
“We now have 38 people who were involved in the false arrest, torture, and murder of Sergei Magnitsky who have been sanctioned by the U.S. government,” he said. “However, we have submitted evidence of 282 names back in 2013. There’s a lot more names to be added.”
This post originally appeared on Weekly Standard