Nearly 50 Russian children who are about to be adopted by U.S. families may be stuck in overcrowded orphanages if Russian President Vladimir Putin signs a ban on such adoptions, passed December 26 by the upper chamber of Russia's parliament. Russia's Federation Council unanimously approved the measure, which political observers say was passed in retaliation for U.S. legislation recently signed by President Obama that places travel and financial restrictions on Russians who have been identified as human rights violators. The U.S. law, called the Magnitsky Act, was named for Russian attorney Sergei Magnitsky, who uncovered a massive Russian tax fraud involving government officials. Magnitsky was reportedly beaten to death in a Moscow jail in 2009.
“The United States is concerned by measures in the bill passed in the Russian Duma that, if it becomes law, would halt inter-country adoptions between the United States and Russia and would restrict the ability of Russian civil society organizations to work with American partners,” said U.S. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell.
For their part, Russian officials have expressed their concern over the deaths of nearly a score of Russian adopted children who have died under the care of their U.S. parents, some of them from abuse and mistreatment. The Associated Press reported that the Russian bill is named in honor of a Russian infant, Dima Yakovlev, who died in the United States in 2008 after his adoptive father accidentally left him in an enclosed car for hours on a hot summer day. “The father was found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter,” reported the AP. “Russian lawmakers argue that by banning adoptions to the United States they would be protecting children and encouraging adoptions inside Russia.”
Over the past couple of years there have been a handful of news stories that supposedly highlight the casual attitude some American parents have shown toward their adopted Russian children. One of the most notorious cases occurred in 2010, when an American woman reportedly sent her adopted son back to Russia alone on a one-way flight, claiming that the seven-year-old had exhibited violent outbursts that caused her family to fear for their safety.
Russian lawmaker Mikhail Margelov, one of the bill's sponsors, said the bottom line is that Russian children “must be placed in Russian families, and this is a cornerstone issue for us.” He added, however, that the bill was also “a natural and a long overdue response” to the U.S. law targeting Russian citizens.
One Russian children's rights advocate, Pavel Astakhov, who approves of the measure, said that foreign adoptions discourage Russian families from adopting children in the country. “A foreigner who has paid for an adoption always gets a priority compared to potential Russian adoptive parents,” Astakhov said. “A great country like Russia cannot sell its children.” The measure would allow foreign adoptions only if a Russian family does not express interest in a child.
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