Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 09.11.2017
You might be sanctioned by Russia and not even know it. You might try to enter Russia with a valid visa and be turned back at the border anyway. You might be inside Russia legally but be arrested and deported summarily. You might be doing a business deal and have your property seized. You might be visiting friends or family in Russia and be kidnapped and held hostage. All of this is possible because Russia has a blacklist of people it doesn’t like but refuses to say who is on the list.
Russia announced the secret sanctions in Ottawa on November 7. A spokesman for the Russian embassy said that Russia had sanctioned “dozens” of Canadians who are “political actors pursuing a a toxic Russophobic agenda.” Russia says that the sanctions are in retaliation for the 52 individuals that Canada sanctioned under the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (Sergei Magnitsky Law). Of the 52, 30 were Russians who were responsible for the harassment, arrest, persecution, torture and murder of Sergei Magnitsky on 16 November 2009. Russia says it won’t tell anyone who are the “dozens” of Canadians who have been sanctioned. It is possible that Russia has no such secret list, and is merely threatening haphazardly, and leaving its options open to persecute anyone it chooses in the future.
While it is doubtful if there is an actual secret sanction list with names on it, Russia has used the notion that there is to bar anyone it doesn’t like from entering Russia. European Parliament MEP Rebecca Harms was stopped from attending the trial of Nadiya Savchenko on 26 September 2014. She was told that if she tried to enter Russia again it would be considered a “criminal act.” Thomas Nilsen, editor of the Independent Barents Observer, was “declared unwanted” and barred from Russia in March 2017. Latvian MEP Sandra Kalniete was prevented from attending the funeral of Boris Nemtsov; she was told it would be a “criminal offence” to enter Russia. The reality of Russia today is that nobody enters that benighted country unless Putin approves.
The threat of secret sanctions – whether they’re written down or not – is much greater than being stopped from going to Russia. Kidnapping and hostage-taking are state terror policies of the Putin regime. Oleg Sentsov was kidnapped from his home in Crimea, Ukraine, convicted in a kangaroo court on bogus charges, and is now being shuffled from gulag to gulag in Siberia and northern Russia. Roman Sushchenko is a journalist who was doing his job in Moscow when he was kidnapped by Putin’s goons; he too is a hostage. Some innocents are lured from outside Russia: Pavel Hryb was lured from Ukraine to Homel, Belarus, kidnapped there by Russia’s FSB, then taken as a hostage to Krasnodar, Russia. Sometimes Russia executes snatch-and-grap kidnappings across international borders: Russia abducted two Ukrainian border guards from Sumy region on 3 October 2017; Russia abducted Estonian Internal Security Service officer Eston Kohver from the Estonian side of the border with Russia on 5 September 2014. No one is safe inside Russia or near to Russia. It doesn’t matter if you are among the mighty or the meek. If you offend Putin you are liable to be kidnapped and taken as a hostage by Russia.
Russia has given itself unlimited extra-judicial power against foreigners. With its announcement against Canadians, Russia says it has a secret sanctions list. Russia says that individuals are on this list for “Russophobia.” No one is safe. No one can be sure that just because they have a Russian visa or a diplomatic passport that they won’t be denied entry to Russia, arrested and deported from Russia, or kidnapped, held hostage and tortured by Russia. Because no one can be sure they aren’t on the secret sanctions list and aren’t guilty of “Russophobia,” no one who is rational judge of their own self-interest will ever travel to Russia again.