Russian President Vladimir Putin
MOSCOW -- Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday he
will sign a controversial bill barring Americans from adopting Russian
children, as the Kremlin's children's rights advocate recommended
extending the ban to the rest of the world.
The bill is
part of the country's increasingly confrontational stance with the West
and has angered some Russians who argue it victimizes kids to make a
The law would block dozens of Russian
children now in the process of being adopted by American families from
leaving the country and cut off a major route out of often dismal
orphanages. Russia is the single biggest source of adopted children in
the U.S., with more than 60,000 Russian children being taken in by
Americans over the past two decades.
"I still don't see any
reasons why I should not sign it," Putin said at a televised meeting.
He went on to say that he "intends" to do so.
estimates that there are about 740,000 children not in parental custody
in Russia, while only 18,000 Russians are now waiting to adopt a child.
Russian officials say they want to encourage more Russians to adopt
Children rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov on Thursday petitioned the president to extend the ban to other countries.
"There is huge money and questionable people involved in the semi-legal schemes of exporting children," he tweeted.
critics say Astakhov is trying to extend the ban only to get more
publicity and win more favors with Putin. A graduate of the KGB law
school and a celebrity lawyer, Astakhov was a pro-Putin activist before
becoming a children rights ombudsman and is now seen as the Kremlin's
voice on adoption issues.
"This is cynicism beyond limits,"
opposition leader Ilya Yashin tweeted. "The children rights ombudsman
is depriving children of a future."
The bill is retaliation for an American law that calls for sanctions
against Russian officials deemed to be human rights violators. Kremlin
critics say that means Russian officials who own property in the West
and send their children to Western schools would lose access to their
assets and families.
Putin said U.S. authorities routinely
let Americans suspected of violence toward Russian adoptees go
unpunished - a clear reference to Dima Yakovlev, a Russian toddler for
whom the bill is named. The child was adopted by Americans and then died
in 2008 after his father left him in a car in broiling heat for hours.
The father was found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
U.S. State Department says it regrets the Russian Parliament's decision
to pass the bill, saying it would prevent many children from growing up
Astakhov said Wednesday that 46 children who
were about to be adopted in the United States would remain in Russia if
the bill comes into effect.
The adoption of the bill
follows weeks of hysterical media campaign on Kremlin-controlled
television that lambasts American adoptive parents and adoption agencies
that allegedly bribe their way into getting Russian children.
few lawmakers claimed that some Russian children were adopted by
Americans only to be used for organ transplants and become sex toys or
cannon fodder for the U.S. Army.
Critics of the bill have
left dozens of stuffed toys and candles outside the parliament's lower
and upper houses to express solidarity with Russian orphans.
U.S. law, called the Magnitsky Act, stems from the case of Sergei
Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who died in jail after being arrested by
police officers whom he accused of a $230 million tax fraud. The law
prohibits officials allegedly involved in his death from entering the