U.S. blacklists Putin's close aide, 4 others for human rights abuses

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On January 9, the US Department of the Treasury blacklisted five Russian individuals in connection with the Magnitsky Act for human rights abuses.

The sanctions were part of the so-called Magnitsky Act, the list of personal sanctions imposed by the United States on several dozen Russian citizens allegedly involved in the death of Sergey Magnitsky in 2009.

Bastrykin is the head of the federal Investigative Committee, the Russian analogue to the FBI that has directed numerous politically charged criminal cases against opponents of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Officials told the New York Times that the sanctions are not related to the hacking scandal but rather to a law from 2012 that says the Treasury and Department of Justice must sanction Russians involved in human rights abuses.

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He was murdered at a central London hotel in 2006 after drinking tea laced with a rare radioactive substance.

Lugovoi and Kovtun were accused of poisoning Litvinenko, a former Russian agent turned freelance investigator who had collaborated with British intelligence.

Obama's outgoing administration has accused the Kremlin of orchestrating cyber attacks aimed at influencing the results of November's White House race.

The reason why the Magnitsky Act had still not included President Putin himself was that Washington does not want a complete breakdown in its ties with Moscow, according to a senior administration official.

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"We need to preserve the possibility of working with Russian Federation in areas in which it is in the U.S. national interest", the official told AFP, on condition of anonymity. Our goal in imposing sanctions is to change behaviour.

In the past, Moscow has retaliated tit-for-tat to Magnitsky Act sanctions, blacklisting US officials it accuses of rights violations and abuses of power.

With President-elect Donald Trump taking office in a week and a half, these moves may not last long, with Trump aide Kellyanne Conway saying that Trump could well "reconsider" any sanctions imposed by the administration in the name of proportionality.

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