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Legislation still has to clear major hurdles

Russia law to ban U.S. adoptions

The Washington Post

The Parliament in Moscow voiced strong support Wednesday for barring Americans from adopting Russian children, a retaliation against a new U.S. measure imposing penalties on Russian officials that is connected to the death in custody of a Russian lawyer and other human rights violations.

The proposed law, which was overwhelmingly approved in a procedural vote Wednesday, would also place tight restrictions on nongovernment organizations that receive financial support from the United States, banning groups if they engage in political activities considered contrary to “Russia’s interests.”

Russia was the third-largest source of international adoptions to the U.S. last year. The adoption ban — which would begin Jan. 1 and also sanction U.S. officials whom Moscow deems to have been implicated in the endangerment of Russian adoptees — must still clear several hurdles before it becomes law.

The move comes amid continued fury in Russia over the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama on Friday and has put fresh stress on the tumultuous relationship between the two countries.

The new legislation imposes visa and financial sanctions on Russian officials tied to the 2009 death of Magnitsky, a lawyer and tax adviser, in Moscow. Russian lawmakers have denounced it as unwarranted meddling in their domestic affairs, and on Wednesday, the lower chamber of Parliament voted 400 to 4 in favor of the tit-for-tat response, with two abstentions.

The measure they approved is named for Dima Yakovlev, after a Russian orphan who was adopted by a couple in Purcellville, Virginia, and died in 2008 at age 21 months after being left in a car for nine hours. The father was acquitted of involuntary manslaughter.

The ban must pass two more parliamentary hurdles before it can be forwarded to President Vladimir Putin for signing, but legislative leaders have expressed confidence that it will sail through. Top Putin allies, including Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, have expressed opposition to the adoption ban in recent days, but the president himself has been less clear.

But many Russian children’s advocates have criticized the measure, saying conditions in Russian orphanages are often poor and that few Russians adopt the children themselves.

Orphans will “stay in Russian children’s institutions, with tragic consequences,” said Boris Altshuler, who heads the nongovernmental advocacy group Rights of the Child. He estimates that 83,000 orphans are living in Russian institutions, along with more than 200,000 children whose parents have given up custody at least temporarily.