Russian parliament endorses anti-U.S. adoption bill

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By Tuesday, more than 100,000 Russians had signed an online petition urging the Kremlin to scrap the bill.

Over the weekend, dozens of Muscovites placed toys and lit candles in front of the Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament after it approved the bill on Friday, but security guards promptly removed them. Opposition groups said they will rally against the bill on Jan. 13, and several popular artists publicly voiced their concern about the legislation.

While receiving a state award from Putin on Wednesday, film actor Konstantin Khabensky wore a badge saying “Children Are Beyond Politics.” Veteran rock musician Andrey Makarevich called on Putin Monday to stop “killing children.”

During a marathon Putin press conference Thursday, eight of the 60 questions the president answered focused on the bill. Responding angrily, Putin claimed that Americans routinely mistreat children from Russia.

The bill is named in honor of Dima Yakovlev, a Russian toddler who 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. A Russian television report showed Yakovlev’s blind grandmother who claimed that the U.S. family that adopted her grandson forged her signature on documents allowing them to take the boy outside Russia.

Russian lawmakers argue that by banning adoptions to the U.S. they would be protecting children and encouraging adoptions inside Russia.

In a measure of the virulent anti-U.S. sentiment that has gripped parts of Russian society, a few lawmakers went even further, claiming 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.

Americans involved in adoption of Russian children find the new legislation upsetting.

Bill Blacquiere, president of New York City-based Bethany Christian Services, one of the largest adoption agencies in the U.S., said he hopes Putin won’t sign the bill.

“It would be very sad for kids to grow up in orphanages,” Blacquiere said. “And would hurt them socially, psychologically and mentally. We all know that caring for children in institutions is just not a very good thing.”

Joyce Sterkel, who runs a Montana ranch for troubled children adopted abroad and has adopted three Russian children herself, said she is concerned for the estimated 700,000 children who live in state-run institutions in Russia.

“I would prefer that the Russians take care of their own children. I would prefer that people in the United States take care of their own children,” Sterkel said Wednesday. “But if a suitable home cannot be found in that country, it seems reasonable that a child should be able to find a home outside.”

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