Canada imposes sanctions on 30 Russians over death of lawyer

FILE PHOTO: A picture of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky is seen on his grave in the Preobrazhensky cemetery in Moscow March 11, 2013. REUTERS/Mikhail Voskresensky

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada imposed sanctions on Friday against 30 Russian officials whom it said were complicit in the 2009 prison death of Sergei Magnitsky, an anti-corruption lawyer who was jailed after alleging a massive tax fraud.

The measures -- which freeze the assets of the officials and bar them from visiting Canada -- were enacted through a new law giving the government the right to penalize those it says are guilty of human rights violations, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Among those targeted are Alexander Bastrykin, Russia’s top investigator and a close aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The United States blacklisted him in January 2017, citing Magnitsky’s death.

“Today’s announcement sends a clear message that Canada will take action against individuals who have profited from acts of significant corruption or who have been involved in gross violations of human rights,” said Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Moscow said last month it would retaliate if Canada banned individuals under the new law.

The Russian embassy in Ottawa later issued a statement denouncing the sanctions as “absolutely pointless and reprehensible”.

Canada has repeatedly condemned Moscow over Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region and imposed sanctions along with other Western nations.

The United States adopted a law in 2012 freezing any U.S. assets of Russian investigators and prosecutors said to have been involved in the detention of Magnitsky. In retaliation, Moscow barred Americans from adopting Russian children.

In addition to penalizing the 30 Russians, Canada also imposed sanctions on 19 officials from Venezuela and three from South Sudan.

Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Sandra Maler