Russia’s parliament blocks Americans from adopting the country’s children
Russian police officers detain a protester outside the Federation Council Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012. Several protesters were detained Wednesday morning outside the upper chamber of Russias parliament which is set to vote on a measure banning Americans from adopting Russian children. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
A demonstrator holds a poster reading "We are for Dima Yakovlev Bill" outside the Federation Council on Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012. Several protesters were detained Wednesday morning outside the upper chamber of Russia's parliament as it prepared to vote on a controversial measure banning Americans from adopting Russian children. The bill is named in honor of Dima Yakovlev, a Russian toddler who was adopted by Americans and then died in 2008 after his father left him in a car in broiling heat for hours. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
A protester argues with police officers outside the Federation Council on Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012. Several protesters were detained Wednesday morning outside the upper chamber of Russia's parliament as it prepared to vote on a controversial measure banning Americans from adopting Russian children. The poster held by the protester reads: Children get frozen in the Cold War. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, presents a state award to famous Russian actor Konstantin Khabensky wearing a badge that reads "Children are outisde politics!" during an award ceremony in the Kremlin in Moscow, Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012. The upper chamber of Russia's parliament on Wednesday unanimously voted in favor of a measure banning Americans from adopting Russian children. It now goes to President Vladimir Putin to sign or turn down. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service)
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 yesterday 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 yesterday 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 continued.
Seven people with posters protesting the bill were detained outside the Council before the vote. 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.
Some top government officials, including the foreign minister, have spoken flatly against the adoption law, arguing that the measure would be in violation of Russia’s constitution and international obligations.
But Senator Mikhail Margelov, chairman of the Council’s foreign affairs committee, referred to the bill as “a natural and a long overdue response” to the U.S. legislation. “Children must be placed in Russian families, and this is a cornerstone issue for us,” he said.
Margelov said that a bilateral Russian-U.S. agreement binds Russia to give notice of a halt to adoptions 12 months in advance. Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies that the president would consider the bill within the next two weeks.
The measure has become one of the most debated topics in Russia.
By Tuesday, more than 100,000 Russians had signed an online petition urging the Kremlin to scrap the bill.