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Europe

Putin signs law banning US adoptions in tit-for-tat row

Video by Kethevane GORJESTANI

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2012-12-28

Russian President Vladimir Putin (pictured right) has signed a controversial bill banning US citizens from adopting Russian children, marking the latest step in an escalating row between the former Cold War foes.

Russian President Vladimir Putin made good on his word to sign a bill banning US citizens from adopting Russian children on Friday, turning it into law.

The controversial legislation, which is due to come into force on January 1, is largely seen as a symptom of increasingly tense ties between the United States and Russia. It is thought to have been drafted as a retaliatory measure against the United States’s “Magnitsky Act”, a new law that denies human-rights violators entry onto American soil, but specifically targets Russian officials thought to be involved in the death of Sergei Magnitsky and the subsequent cover-up.

Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer working for a US hedge fund, died in a Moscow jail in 2009 after blowing the whistle on what he claimed was a 178-million-euro police embezzlement scheme. Russian authorities have denied the allegations, and a court in Moscow has cleared the only prison official accused over Magnitsky’s death, Dmitry Kratov, of any wrongdoing.

Last year, 962 of the 3,400 children who found new homes with foreign families were adopted by American parents, making the US the number one destination for Russian orphans. Under the new law, which has sparked criticism from children’s rights- advocates and even some members of Putin’s government, not only will all forms of US adoptions in Russia be banned but certain NGOs receiving US funding will be outlawed.

The legislation also mirrors the Magnitsky Act in that it allows the government government to impose a visa ban and freeze the assets of Americans accused of violating the rights of Russians abroad.

Anti-American sentiment

Analysts have said that the law is a part of a larger anti-American trend among the Kremlin and many Russian officials, who claim Washington has tried to undermine Moscow by supporting political opponents. Russian lawmakers have pointed to the Magnitsky Act as yet another attempt by Americans to meddle in Russia’s internal affairs.

The issue of international adoptions is particularly sensitive among the two former Cold War foes, with reports of abuse and neglect of Russian orphans by American families getting heavy media attention in recent years.

Russians were outraged in 2010 when an American woman sent back a 7-year-old Russian boy she had adopted, saying he had "behavioral problems and she didn't want him anymore.”

“There is a real dispute between the two countries on this subject,” said Stéphane Lauch, vice-president of the French-based Russian Adoption Association, a support group for families who have adopted Russian children. “Although the cases of abuse in the US are isolated, the Russians are exploiting them politically and diplomatically.”

In a tit-for-tat move, Russia’s adoption law was named after Dima Yajovlev, a young girl who suffocated to death in 2008 when her adopted American father left her in a locked car during a summer heatwave.

Law undermining diplomatic efforts

Despite Putin’s clear backing of the law, several high-profile Russian officials have expressed concern over the move, warning children should not be used as bargaining chips.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who has pushed for stronger relations with Washington, has called the adoption ban “a mistake”, while Education Minister Dmitry Livanov tweeted last week that the measure would only hurt Russian children who could not find parents in their own country.

“This is eye-for-an-eye logic, but it's wrong, because it's our children that could suffer”, Livanov said.

According to UNICEF, 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.
 

Date created : 2012-12-28

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