William Hague criticises Russia over Sergei Magnitsky case

Daily Telegraph

Foreign Secretary William Hague has criticised Russia’s handling of the death of whistle-blowing lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, saying the case was “of utmost concern” to the Government.

Speaking ahead of talks in London with his counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday, Mr Hague said the Magnitsky affair was “one of the highest profile examples of failings in Russia’s judicial and prison systems”.

“Mr Magnitsky died more than three years ago in pretrial detention, and to date there has been no meaningful progress towards establishing the circumstances surrounding his death,” the Foreign Secretary told Russian news agency Interfax. “I have urged my Russian counterpart to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice without further delay, and measures are put in place to prevent such cases from happening again.”

Mr Magnitsky, a lawyer, died of heart failure at the age of 37 in a Moscow jail in 2009 after being denied vital medical treatment for pancreatitis. He had earlier exposed a £140m tax fraud involving senior state officials and policemen, but was jailed by the same officers whom he accused.

No one was convicted over his death and Kremlin critics say a trial of the dead man for fraud – due to begin in Moscow next week – is a Kafkaesque attempt to blacken his name and dampen dissent.

The whistle-blower’s fate has become a symbol worldwide of corruption and ruthlessness under President Vladimir Putin, and the Russian government was furious in December when the United States introduced a law banning officials allegedly involved with his maltreatment from receiving American visas.

Mr Hague will meet Mr Lavrov on Wednesday as part of the first talks in a “UK-Russia strategic dialogue” which also see Defence Secretary Philip Hammond meeting his opposite number, Sergei Shoigu.

The negotiations are being framed on both sides as a “small milestone” after years of sour relations following the 2006 poisoning in London of former Russian Federal Security Service officer Alexander Litvinenko.

Despite his critical comments on the Magnitsky case, Mr Hague said there had been “many positive developments in UK/Russia relations” since he became Foreign Secretary in 2010, and a “strengthening of political contacts at the highest level” demonstrated by Mr Putin and Prime Minister David Cameron’s meeting at the London Olympics last year.

He said he and Mr Lavrov would discuss “major topical foreign policy issues such as Syria, Iran and the situation in North Africa”.
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