Russia Bans 500 US Citizens, Including Obama, US Talk Show Hosts

Wim De Gent
By Wim De Gent
May 20, 2023Europe
Russia Bans 500 US Citizens, Including Obama, US Talk Show Hosts
Barack Obama attends the premiere of Netflix's Descendant during the Martha's Vineyard African-American Film Festival at MV Performing Arts Center in Edgartown, Mass., on Aug. 5, 2022. (Arturo Holmes/Getty Images for Netflix)

On Friday, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that 500 U.S. citizens—including former President Barack Obama—have been banned from entering the country with immediate effect.

In a statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that the decision comes in response to the U.S. refusal last month to give visas to Russian journalists traveling with the foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, to attend the United Nations Security Council.

“In response to the regularly imposed anti-Russian sanctions by the [President] Joe Biden administration, which, according to Washington’s plan, are designed to inflict maximum damage on Russia by personally affecting officials and ordinary citizens of our country, as a countermeasure, entry into the Russian Federation is closed for 500 Americans,” the statement read.

The Kremlin also refused to grant the U.S. embassy’s request for a consular visit to Evan Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal reporter detained in Russia on charges of espionage.

Besides Obama, the Russian blacklist includes many governors and members of Congress, both Democrat and Republican; attorney-generals—current and former—from twenty U.S. states; former officials on board of think tanks “involved in spreading Russophobic fabrications and fakes,” and heads of defense industry companies supplying weapons to Ukraine.

The statement also singles out Nina Jankowicz, former head of the Biden administration’s short-lived Disinformation Governance Board.

“The attached ‘500 list’ also includes those in the government and law enforcement agencies who were directly involved in the persecution of dissidents following the so-called ‘storming of the Capitol,’” the statement read.

This includes U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves and his predecessor Michael Sherwin, as well as Michael Leroy Byrd, the police officer “who killed Ashley Babbit during the so-called ‘storming of the Capitol.’”

Biden administration officials who made the blacklist include President Biden’s senior advisor, Anita Dunn; former ambassador to Ukraine and current Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources Geoffrey Pyatt; James Rubin, head of the Global Engagement Center, and State Department Counselor Derek Chollet.

The list also features several celebrities, namely talk-show hosts Seth Meyers, Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, and Joe Scarborough. Other media personalities included are show host Rachel Maddow, CNN commentator Erin Burnett, former NBC presenter Brian Williams, and Voice of America radio director Yolanda Lopez.

The bulk of the list is made up of people associated with prominent think tanks such as the Brookings Institution, the Freedom House, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Center for a New American Security, the Atlantic Council, the RAND Corporation Research Center, etc.

Defense contractors General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, AM General, and General Atomics Corporation also take up a good portion of the list, including CIA intelligence contractor In-Q-Tel.

“The principle of the inevitability of punishment will be applied consistently, no matter whether we are talking about tougher sanctions or discriminatory steps aimed at hindering the professional activities of our fellow citizens,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

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