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© RIA Novosti. Ramil Sitdikov

Russian police break up US adoption ban protest

by RIA Novosti at 26/12/2012 14:42

Police in Moscow detained seven people on Wednesday at a protest outside the upper house of parliament against a proposed ban on US nationals adopting Russian children.

The protesters were detained after holding placards urging Federation Council members not to vote for the bill, which was overwhelmingly approved in its third and final reading by the lower house, the State Duma, last week. Federation Council committees on international affairs and legal issues advised the upper house on Tuesday to give the green light to the controversial bill.

“We need to approve this bill,” Federation Council head Valentina Matvinenko told journalists ahead of the vote. “And believe me, no one has pressured me.”

President Vladimir Putin earlier this month indicated that he supports the bill, but has not yet decided if he will sign it into law. If he does, the law will come into force from January 1, 2013, halting the adoption of 46 Russian children by US families whose cases are currently being processed, Russia’s ombudsman for child rights, Pavel Astakhov, said on Wednesday.

A number of Russian ministers, including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, have criticized the bill.

The proposed ban is part of Russia’s response to the US Magnitsky Act, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama earlier this month. The act introduces sanctions against Russian officials suspected of human rights abuses and is named after Sergei Magnitsky, a whistleblowing lawyer who died in a Moscow pre-trial detention centre in 2009.

The adoption ban law under consideration in Moscow is named after a two-year-old Russian boy, Dima Yakovlev (Chase Harrison), who died in 2008 after being left in a car by his adoptive US national father. The father was later acquitted of manslaughter.

Yakovlev was one of 19 Russian children to have died at the hands of their US adoptive parents since 1999, according to Russian officials. Some 45,000 Russian children have been adopted by US citizens in that time, according to the US State Department.

The Russian public has been largely supportive of the bill, with 56 percent of respondents in an opinion poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation (FOM) saying they backed a ban on US nationals adopting Russian children.

But opponents of the bill accuse MPs of using orphans as political pawns, and the opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta has collected over 100,000 signatures in an online petition against the ban. The head of the Kremlin's council on human rights said last week that he supported the ban, but also called for a reform of the adoption system to allow Russians to more easily adopt Russian children.

Experts have said the bill, if adopted, would harm Russia’s international image.

“The United States is serious about discrediting the Russian political establishment,” said analyst Alexei Mukhin, of the Moscow-based Center for Political Information. “And, I have to say, the Russian political establishment is actively helping with this.”

“The damage to [Russia’s] image will be very great,” he added.

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