Putin signs U.S. adop­tion ban

Mea­sure part of U.s.-rus­sia dis­agree­ment over hu­man rights.

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - Byjim Heintz

MOSCOW — Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin on Fri­day signed a law ban­ning Amer­i­cans from adopt­ing Rus­sian chil­dren, abruptly ter­mi­nat­ing the prospects for more than 50 young­sters pre­par­ing to join new fam­i­lies and spark­ing crit­ics to liken him to King Herod.

The move is 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, Putin signed it less than 24 hours af­ter re­ceiv­ing it from Par­lia­ment, where it passed both houses over­whelm­ingly.

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

The law takes ef­fect Jan. 1, the Krem­lin said. Chil­dren’s rights om­buds­man Pavel As­takhov said 52 chil­dren who were in the pipe­line for U.S. adop­tion would re­main in Rus­sia.

The ban 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.

A prison doc­tor who was the only of­fi­cial charged in the case was ac­quit­ted by a Moscow court on Fri­day. Although there was no demon­stra­ble con­nec­tion to Putin’s sign­ing the law a few hours later, the tim­ing un­der­lines what crit­ics say is Rus­sia’s re­fusal to re­spon­si­bly pur­sue the case.

The adop­tion ban has an­gered both Amer­i­cans and Rus­sians who ar­gue it vic­tim­izes chil­dren to make a po­lit­i­cal point.

U.S. State De­part­ment spokesman Pa­trick Ven­trell ex­pressed re­gret over Putin’s sign­ing the law and urged Rus­sia to “al­low those chil­dren who have al­ready met and bonded with their fu­ture par­ents to fin­ish the nec­es­sary le­gal pro­ce­dures so that they can join their fam­i­lies.”

Vladimir Lukin, head of the Rus­sian Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion and a former am­bas­sador to Washington, said he will chal­lenge the law in court.

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