Amer­i­can adop­tions of Rus­sians to halt

De­spite global crit­i­cism, Putin says he’ll sign bill.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Mansur Mirovalev and Nataliya Vasi­lyeva dmitry lovetsky / AP

Rus­sia moves to­ward fi­nal­iz­ing a ban on Amer­i­cans adopt­ing Rus­sian chil­dren, a move widely seen as the Krem­lin’s re­tal­i­a­tion against an Amer­i­can law that calls for sanc­tions against Rus­sians deemed to be hu­man rights vi­o­la­tors.

MOSCOW — De­fy­ing a storm of domestic and in­ter­na­tional crit­i­cism, Rus­sia moved to­ward fi­nal­iz­ing a ban on Amer­i­cans adopt­ing Rus­sian chil­dren, as Par­lia­ment’s up­per house voted unan­i­mously Wed­nes­day in fa­vor of a mea­sure that Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin has in­di­cated he will sign into law.

The bill is widely seen as the Krem­lin’s re­tal­i­a­tion against an Amer­i­can law that calls for sanc­tions against Rus­sians deemed to be hu­man rights vi­o­la­tors. It comes as Putin takes an in­creas­ingly con­fronta­tional at­ti­tude to­ward the West, brush­ing aside con­cerns about a crack­down on dis­sent and demo­cratic free­doms.

Dozens of Rus­sian chil­dren close to be­ing adopted by Amer­i­can fam­i­lies now will al­most cer­tainly be blocked from leav­ing the coun­try. The law also cuts off the main in­ter­na­tional adop­tion route for Rus­sian chil­dren stuck in of­ten dis­mal or­phan­ages: Tens of thou­sands of Rus­sian young­sters have been adopted in the U.S. in the past 20 years. There are about 740,000 chil­dren with­out parental care in Rus­sia, ac­cord­ing to UNICEF.

All 143 mem­bers of the Fed­er­a­tion Coun­cil present voted to sup­port the bill, which has sparked crit­i­cism from both the U.S. and Rus­sian of­fi­cials, ac­tivists and artists, who say it vic­tim­izes chil­dren by de­priv­ing them of the chance to es­cape the squalor of or­phan­age life. The vote comes days af­ter Par­lia­ment’s lower house over­whelm­ingly ap­proved the ban.

The U.S. State De­part­ment said Wed­nes­day it re­gret­ted the Rus­sian par­lia­ment’s de­ci­sion.

“Since 1992, Amer­i­can fam­i­lies have wel­comed more than 60,000 Rus­sian chil­dren into their homes, pro­vid­ing them with an op­por­tu­nity to grow up in a fam­ily en­vi­ron­ment,” spokesman Pa­trick Ven­trell said in a state­ment from Washington. “The bill passed by Rus­sia’s par­lia­ment would pre­vent many chil­dren from en­joy­ing this op­por­tu­nity ...

“It is mis­guided to link the fate of chil­dren to un­re­lated po­lit­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions,” he said.

Seven peo­ple with posters protest­ing the bill were de­tained out­side the Coun­cil be­fore Wed­nes­day’s vote. “Chil­dren get frozen in the Cold War,” one poster read. Some 60 peo­ple ral­lied in St. Peters­burg, Rus­sia’s sec­ond largest city.

The bill is part of larger leg­is­la­tion by Putin-al­lied law­mak­ers re­tal­i­at­ing against a re­cently signed U.S. law that calls for sanc­tions against Rus­sians deemed to be hu­man rights vi­o­la­tors. Although Putin has not ex­plic­itly com­mit­ted to sign­ing the bill, he strongly de­fended it in a press con­fer­ence last week as “a suf­fi­cient re­sponse” to the new U.S. law.

Orig­i­nally Rus­sia’s law­mak­ers cob­bled to­gether a more or less a tit-for-tat re­sponse to the U.S. law, pro­vid­ing for travel sanc­tions and the seizure of fi­nan­cial as­sets in Rus­sia of Amer­i­cans de­ter­mined to have vi­o­lated the rights of Rus­sians.

But it was ex­panded to in­clude the adop­tion mea­sure and call for a ban on any or­ga­ni­za­tions that are en­gaged in po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties if they re­ceive fund­ing from U.S. ci­ti­zens or are de­ter­mined to be a threat to Rus­sia’s in­ter­ests.

Rus­sian chil­dren’s rights om­buds­man Pavel As­takhov told the In­ter­fax news agency that 46 chil­dren who were on the verge of be­ing adopted by Amer­i­cans would stay in Rus­sia if the bill is ap­proved — de­spite court rul­ings in some of th­ese cases au­tho­riz­ing the adop­tions.

The om­buds­man sup­ported the bill, say­ing that for­eign adop­tions dis­cour­age Rus­sians from adopt­ing chil­dren. “A for­eigner who has paid for an adop­tion al­ways gets a pri­or­ity com­pared to po­ten­tial Rus­sian adop­tive par­ents,” As­takhov was quoted as say­ing. “A great coun­try like Rus­sia can­not sell its chil­dren.”

Rus­sian law al­lows for­eign­ers to adopt only if a Rus­sian fam­ily has not ex­pressed in­ter­est in a child be­ing con­sid­ered for adop­tion.

At a rally Wed­nes­day in St. Peters­burg against a ban on U.S. adop­tion of Rus­sian chil­dren, a pro­tester’s poster says ‘Do not in­volve chil­dren in pol­i­tics.’

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