Russian officials involved in human rights abuse and corruption could face UK visa ban

11 March 2018, 01:55

Russian officials involved in corruption and human rights abuse could be targeted by new legislation banning them from entering Britain.

Conservative MPs said discussions were ongoing with senior Cabinet ministers about introducing a UK version of the Magnitsky Act into the Sanctions Bill currently going through Parliament.

The US legislation, passed in 2012, was designed to punish Russian officials involved in the death in custody of the lawyer Sergei Magnitsky while he was investigating official corruption.

It has since been extended to apply worldwide, with the US authorities publishing a list of "gross violators of human rights" who are subject to visa bans and asset freezes.

Tory backbencher Richard Benyon told the Press Association: "We are in negotiations with the Government which I hope will come to fruition in the report stage (of the Bill) which is down for April."

Former Conservative chief whip Andrew Mitchell told the Sunday Telegraph: "We have been making slow but reasonable progress with the Government in trying to reach a mutually acceptable position."

Discussions about the move - which is supported by Labour - started before the nerve agent attack in Salisbury, which left former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia fighting for their lives amid suspicion of Kremlin involvement.

However, Mr Benyon said he believed the Salisbury case made the adoption of their amendments more likely. "It has certainly concentrated minds," he said.

If accepted it will almost certainly lead to a further worsening of relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin - who imposed a retaliatory ban on the adoption of Russian children by Americans.

There was no immediate comment from the Foreign Office, which is piloting the Sanctions Bill through Parliament.

However, a Whitehall source told the Sunday Telegraph: "We started the process by putting it into the Criminal Finances Act 2017 and are looking at expanding it across other legislation.

"But we are clear that we will not do anything that can adversely impact the operational effectiveness of our law enforcement agencies."

Meanwhile the Conservative Party is facing criticism after The Sunday Times reported that it had declared donations of more than £820,000 from "Russian-linked supporters" since Theresa May became Prime Minister in July 2016.

Marina Litvinenko, the widow of the former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko who died in London in 2006 after being given radioactive polonium, said they should not have taken the money.

"These donations are not just from the heart and for charitable reasons. They are all calculated," she told The Sunday Times.

A Tory Party spokesman said: "All donations to the Conservative party are properly and transparently declared to the Electoral Commission, published by them, and comply fully with the law."