Russia has warned it will retaliate after Britain announced it was imposing sanctions on 25 Russian nationals linked to the death in custody of the lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.
Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow regretted the “unfriendly” actions of the UK Government and was ready to respond in kind.
“We can only regret such unfriendly steps,” Mr Peskov was quoted as saying by the Tass news agency.
“Of course, the principle of reciprocity will be enforced to the extent that would fit the interests of the Russian Federation.”
The move came after Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced Britain’s first unilateral list of sanctions for human rights abuses since leaving the EU.
They include the head of Russia’s investigative committee, Alexander Bastrykin, deputy prosecutor general Viktor Grin and deputy interior minister Alexei Anichin.
Mr Raab told the Commons that the sanctions were targeted at those involved in the “torture and murder” of Mr Magnitsky, who died in 2009 after exposing massive corruption in the Interior Ministry.
Individuals on the list are now banned from travel to or doing business with the UK and will have any assets in the country frozen.
Downing Street suggested that any retaliation by Moscow would not be justified.
“Those sanctions which we have imposed on individuals involve some of the most notorious human rights violations of recent years,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.
It’s a smart tool allowing for the targeted sanctioning of individuals and entities involved in serious violations or abuses of human rightsPrime Minister’s official spokesman
“The Foreign Secretary has made clear that this sanctions regime is not intended to target countries.
“It’s a smart tool allowing for the targeted sanctioning of individuals and entities involved in serious violations or abuses of human rights.”
In addition to the Russians, sanctions have also been imposed on 20 Saudi nationals implicated in the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and two Burmese generals responsible for military operations against the country’s Rohingya minority.
North Korea’s Ministry of State Security Bureau 7 and the Ministry of People’s Security Correctional Bureau, which run prison camps linked to murder, torture and enslavement are also on the list.