Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Russia: Parliament Approves Ban Against Americans Adopting Russian Children, Putin Likely to Sign Bill into Law

According to The Associated Press, the Russian Parliament's upper house voted unanimously on Wednesday (December 26) to ban Americans from adopting Russian children.

The bill is widely seen as a tit-for-tat measure against an American law that calls for sanctions against Russians deemed to be human rights violators. The vote on the bill comes at a time when Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken an increasingly confrontational attitude toward the West.

Dozens of Russian children close to being adopted by American families will almost certainly be blocked from leaving the country. The law also cuts off the main international adoption avenue for Russian children who are left to poor conditions in orphanages. It is estimated that 45,000 Russian children have been adopted in the US over the last 20 years.

All 143 members of the Federation Council present voted to support the bill, while the vote has sparked criticism from both US and Russian officials and child advocates who contend 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.

COMMENT: 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. 

By Tuesday (December 25), more than 100,000 Russians had signed an online petition urging the Kremlin to scrap the bill.

The proposed adoption ban is part of a broader plan conceived as Russia's response to a new US law known as the Magnitsky Act, for Sergei Magnitsky, a hedge-fund lawyer who died in a Russian prison in 2009 after exposing alleged fraud and corruption among officials. That law imposes visa bans and asset freezes on Russian officials and their families suspected to have been involved in the Magnitsky case or other human-rights violations.

If Putin signs the bill into law, it no doubt will leave roughly 740,000 homeless Russian children to the squalor prevailing in state-run orphanages with few resources.