Russia has censured Washington's decision to blacklist the head of its top law enforcement agency and a lawmaker among three other Russians as yet another effort to further deteriorate bilateral ties.
"We deeply regret the fact that a lingering period of unprecedented degradation in our bilateral ties occurred during [US President Barack] Obama's second presidential term," said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov during a press briefing in Moscow on Tuesday after the US Treasury Department announced Monday its decision to impose financial sanctions and visa bans on five Russian lawmakers and state officials.
The move came after Washington expelled 35 Russian diplomats over allegations that Russia ran a hacking campaign to influence the US presidential election last November. Moscow has dismissed the accusations as "witch-hunt."
Those included in the US blacklist are Russia's head of Investigative Committee, Sergey Bastrykin, investigator Stanislav Gordiyevskiy, lower house lawmaker Andrey Lugovoy, businessman Dmitry Kovtun, and financier Gennadiy Plaksin.
The sanctions were part of the so-called Magnitsky Act, the list of personal sanctions imposed by the US on several dozen Russian citizens allegedly involved in the death of Sergey Magnitsky in 2009.
Magnitsky was an employee of an international financial company who died in custody in Moscow while under investigation over a large-scale tax fraud. The initial act came into force in 2012.
Peskov added, "We are convinced that this does not meet our interests, or those of Washington. We think it's a shame that it happened. At the same time, we still hope that one way or another it will be possible to reach a more positive trajectory for relations with America soon."
Meanwhile, US State Department spokesman John Kirby claimed on Monday that additions to the sanctions list followed "extensive research" and targeted individuals with "roles in the repressive machinery of Russia's law enforcement systems, as well as individuals involved in notorious human rights violations."
More Russians have been blacklisted over the years. The list now includes 44 names of those whose assets under US jurisdiction are frozen and are barred from doing business with Americans or receiving US visa.