Moscow – Putin Signs Bill Banning US Adoptions Of Russian Children

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Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) at State Council meeting at the Kremlin, in Moscow, Russia, 27 December 2012. Shown (back R-L) are: Putin, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, the speaker of Russia's lower house, the State Duma, Sergei Naryshkin, Presidential chief of staff Sergei Ivanov. EPA/NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/POOLMoscow – President Vladimir Putin on Friday signed a bill banning Americans from adopting Russian children, part of a harsh response to a U.S. law targeting Russians deemed to be human rights violators.

Although some top Russian officials including the foreign minister openly opposed the bill and Putin himself had been noncommittal about it last week, he signed it less than 24 hours after receiving it from Parliament, where both houses passed it overwhelmingly.

The law also calls for closure of non-governmental organizations receiving American funding if their activities are classified as political – a broad definition that many fear could be used to close any NGO that offends the Kremlin.

It was not immediately clear when the law would take effect, but presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying “practically, adoption stops on Jan. 1.”

Children’s rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov said this week that 46 children who were about to be adopted in the U.S. would remain in Russia if the bill comes into effect.

The bill has angered Americans and Russians who argue it victimizes children to make a political point, cutting off a route out of frequently dismal orphanages for thousands of children.

UNICEF estimates that there are about 740,000 children not in parental custody in Russia while about 18,000 Russians are on the waiting list to adopt a child. The U.S. is the biggest destination for adopted Russian children – more than 60,000 of them have been taken in by Americans over the past two decades.

Russians historically have been less enthusiastic about adopting children than most Western cultures.

Lev Ponomarev, one of Russia’s most prominent human rights activists, hinted at that reluctance when he said Parliament members who voted for the bill should take custody of the children who were about to be adopted.

“The moral responsibility lies on them,” he told Interfax. “But I don’t think that even one child will be taken for upbringing by deputies of the Duma.”

The law is in response to a measure signed into law by President Barack Obama this month that calls for sanctions against Russians assessed to be human rights violators.

That stems from the case of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who was arrested after accusing officials of a $230 million tax fraud. He was repeatedly denied medical treatment and died in jail in 2009. Russian rights groups claimed he was severely beaten and accused the Kremlin of failing to prosecute those responsible; a prison doctor who was the only official charged in the case was acquitted by a Moscow court on Friday.

The U.S. law galvanized Russian resentment of the United States, which Putin has claimed funded and encouraged the wave of massive anti-government protests that arose last winter.

The Parliament initially considered a relatively similar retaliatory measure, but amendments have expanded it far beyond a tit-for-tat response.

Many Russians have been distressed for years by reports of Russian children dying or suffering abuse at the hands of their American adoptive parents. The new Russian law was dubbed the “Dima Yakovlev Bill” after a toddler who died in 2008 when his American adoptive father left him in a car in broiling heat for hours.

Russians also bristled at how the widespread adoptions appeared to show them as hardhearted or too poor to take care of orphans. Astakhov, the children’s ombudsman, charged that well-heeled Americans often got priority over Russians who wanted to adopt.

A few lawmakers even claimed that some Russian children were adopted by Americans only to be used for organ transplants or become sex toys or cannon fodder for the U.S. Army. A spokesman with Russia’s dominant Orthodox Church said that children adopted by foreigners and raised outside the church will not enter God’s kingdom.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. The importance of this issue is exaggerated. There are literally tens of thousands of young boys and girls here in the U.S., many of them orphans or abandoned children, waiting for adoption. Just because some parents get fixated on a blond, blue-eyed Russian or Eastern European orphan to adopt does not mean their preferences need to be accomodated. We should exhaust opportunities for adoption at home before “demanding” the Russians keep the door open to prospective American adoptive parents. If they don’t like the appearence of those in American orphanages, too bad.

    • I don’t think you understand that this law is a literal death sentence to thousands of Russia’s orphans for whom American adoption means THE only chance to lead a normal life. According to the Russian statistics, 10% of kids who grew up in their orphanages will commit suicide, 40% will became drug users, 60% will be sexually abused. This is not to mention abuse, starvation-like diets and transfer of disabled children to old-age nursing homes once they reach 18. I think as rachmanim bnei rachmanim we need to feel for these kids rather than dismiss this law as an “orphan’s supply and demand” issue.

    • You know nothing about what you post. I am the parent of two adopted children. One domestic and one international. I have also been a foster parent. There are not many American children in orphanages. Orphanages in America disappeared decades ago and children are generally placed in the fister care system until adopted.
      Hopeful adoptive parents in the USA meet with many unsurmountable hurdles which causes them to look abroad. Agencies in the USA try to do same race matches. They also generally exclude older parents. Some states don’t allow gay couples to adopt (I’m stating the facts, not advocating a lifestyle).
      When we wanted to adopt our second child, my wife was over 40, so we were forced to adopt abroad.
      Last year a foster child we had from birth to age three was adopted by another couple. We were turned down by the state because we are white and the other couple is the same race as the child. The appearance of that child didn’t matter to us.
      Lastly, MOST American children that are available for adoption are NOT orphans, instead parental rights have been terminated by the legal system, father unknown, mother on drugs or in prison is a very common situation.

  2. Keep the Russian babies. They do not go through the testing that is done here in the USA. They can send you a sick child and you would not know it until you bring it to the dr. Then it is too late. The baby is yours and you wanted a HEALTHY baby!! Tough luck!! That’s why some kids have been sent back!! Parents have tried coping for years with these illnesses but cannot!! These kids should never have been sent here to begin with and then the USA gets blamed for it!!

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