Russian President Vladimir Putin
President Vladimir Putin on Friday signed a bill banning Americans from adopting Russian children, part of a harsh response to a U.S. law targeting Russians deemed to be human rights violators.
some top Russian officials, including the foreign minister, openly
opposed the bill and Putin himself had been noncommittal about it last
week, he signed it less than 24 hours after receiving it from
Parliament, where both houses passed it overwhelmingly.
law also calls for closure of non-governmental organizations receiving
American funding if their activities are classified as political -- a
broad definition that many fear could be used to close any NGO that
offends the Kremlin.
It was not immediately clear when
the law would take effect, but presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov was
quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying "practically, adoption
stops on Jan. 1."
Children's rights ombudsman Pavel
Astakhov said this week that 46 children who were about to be adopted in
the U.S. would remain in Russia if the bill goes into effect.
bill has angered Americans and Russians who argue it victimizes
children to make a political point, cutting off a route out of
frequently dismal orphanages for thousands of children.
estimates 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. The U.S. is the biggest destination for adopted Russian children
-- more than 60,000 of them have been taken in by Americans over the
past two decades.
Russians historically have been less enthusiastic about adopting children than most Western cultures.
Ponomarev, one of Russia's most prominent human rights activists,
hinted at that reluctance when he said Parliament members who voted for
the bill should take custody of the children who were about to be
"The moral responsibility lies on them," he told
Interfax. "But I don't think that even one child will be taken for
upbringing by deputies of the Duma."
The law is in
response to a measure signed into law by U.S. 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 and accused the Kremlin of failing to prosecute those
responsible; a prison doctor who was the only official charged in the
case was acquitted by a Moscow court on Friday.
law galvanized Russian resentment of the United States, which Putin has
claimed funded and encouraged the wave of massive anti-government
protests that arose last winter.
The Parliament initially
considered a relatively similar retaliatory measure, but amendments
have expanded it far beyond a tit-for-tat response.
Russians have been distressed for years by reports of Russian children
dying or suffering abuse at the hands of their American adoptive
parents. The new Russian law was dubbed the "Dima Yakovlev Bill," after a
toddler who died in 2008 when his American adoptive father left him in a
car in broiling heat for hours.
Russians also bristled at how the widespread adoptions appeared to show them as hardhearted or too poor to take care of orphans.
Astakhov, the children's ombudsman, charged that well-heeled Americans often got priority over Russians who wanted to adopt.
few lawmakers even claimed that some Russian children were adopted by
Americans only to be used for organ transplants or become sex toys or
cannon fodder for the U.S. Army. A spokesman with Russia's dominant
Orthodox Church said that children adopted by foreigners and raised
outside the church will not enter God's kingdom.