MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russia will ban nine prominent Canadian citizens from entering its territory indefinitely, its foreign ministry said on Monday, in a response to Canadian sanctions imposed in March over human rights concerns.
Canada on March 24 set new sanctions on nine Russian officials over "gross and systematic violations of human rights in Russia." Ottawa is particularly concerned about the treatment of Alexei Navalny, a prominent Kremlin critic.
Navalny was arrested this year and sent to serve a 2-1/2-year jail term for parole violations related to an embezzlement conviction he says was fraudulent.
Canada's foreign ministry said the punitive measures unveiled on Monday were unacceptable and unfounded.
"We remain deeply concerned by the deteriorating human rights situation in Russia and the shrinking space for civil society and independent voices. We stand by these Canadians that have been targeted," it said in a statement.
The nine Canadians included Justice Minister David Lametti and Brenda Lucki, head of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Navalny was detained on his return to Russia in January from Germany where he was treated for what German authorities concluded was poisoning in Russia with a banned nerve agent. The Kremlin says it has seen no evidence he was poisoned and that his jailing is not political.
(Reporting by Andrey Ostroukh in Moscow; Additional reporting by Steve Scherer and David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Richard Pullin)