Russia says it will bar entry to Moran, 12 others, to retaliate for U.S. punitive actions

Russia announced Saturday that it is barring 13 Americans, including Rep. James P. Moran (D-Va.), from entering the country, just as Washington has blocked access for 13 Russian and Crimean officials in recent months.

The Foreign Ministry also reiterated its pledge to counter the most recent round of U.S. economic sanctions with “response measures” of its own.

The Obama administration on Wednesday announced tough new measures targeting major Russian banks and energy companies, a significant swath of the Russian defense industry and individuals it said were responsible for the continuing support of separatists battling government forces in eastern Ukraine.

The sanctions came before the downing of a civilian Malaysia Airlines jet over rebel-held Ukrainian airspace Thursday, an act that President Obama called “an outrage of unspeakable proportions” and indirectly linked to Russia.

“We have repeatedly stated that talking to us in the language of sanctions is useless,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said. “Such steps will not remain without consequences.”

Ten of the Americans whom Russia said it will bar were singled out for their connection to the U.S. military prison at Abu Ghraib in Iraq; two were cited for their links to treatment of detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Moran, who is retiring from Congress at the end of the year, was targeted because “he has repeatedly been accused of financial malpractice but avoided responsibility each time,” Lukashevich said. “There is quite a lot of information online about his ‘exploits’ and special attitude toward our country.”

The inclusion of Moran appeared to be Russia’s way of retaliating against the United States for placing Adam Delimkhanov, a member of the Russian Duma, on its sanctions list this month.

Moran said in a statement that he thinks Russia’s action against him stemmed from his efforts to block U.S. helicopter purchases from Rosoboronexport, a Russian state arms dealer, a principal supplier of arms to the Syrian government.

“While this does clarify my overseas travel plans, it seems that the Putin regime would be better served by addressing the consequences of encouraging and enabling Donetsk separatists to perform such a heinous act of cold blooded cruelty or utter incompetence that resulted in the mass murder of nearly 300 innocent civilians,” Moran’s statement said.

The blacklisted Americans also include Rear Adm. Richard Butler, the current commander of the Joint Task Force-Guantanamo, and U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler for their roles in forcibly ending a hunger strike among Guantanamo Bay detainees. Kessler, in an anguished three-page ruling issued in May, concluded that the military could legally force-feed prisoners but urged authorities to consider other methods.

U.S. troops and officials who were named in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal also are on the blacklist, including retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who commanded the coalition forces in Iraq from 2003 to 2004, and retired Col. Janis Karpinski, who was in charge of the prison in the same years.

In 2013, Russia created a “Guantanamo list” of 18 American names after the United States blocked certain Russians from entering the United States on its Magnitsky List.

In March, the United States blocked entry for and froze the assets of an additional 12 Russian and Crimean officials as a punishment for Moscow’s moves to annex Crimea. The sanctioning of the 12 Americans connected to Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib is apparently a direct response to that U.S. action.

Lukashevich did not comment on what economic measures Russia will take in response to the latest round of U.S. sanctions.

“Economic restrictions in any case have a boomerang effect and inevitably will inflict damage on American businesses focused on the Russian market,” he said. “Indeed, the U.S. punishes itself.”

He suggested that the Russians would not be restrained in their response, saying, “As in the U.S., our ‘stop list’ remains open.”

Karoun Demirjian covers defense and foreign policy and was previously a correspondent based in the Post's bureau in Moscow, Russia. Before that, she reported for the Las Vegas Sun as its Washington Correspondent, the Associated Press in Jerusalem, the Chicago Tribune, Congressional Quarterly, and worked at NPR.

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