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Blind teen sees inequity in Russia’s adoption ban

MOSCOW — A blind Russian high schooler's impassioned criticism of the ban on adoption by Americans has added a new and compelling voice to the chorus of condemnation of the law.

Since her Jan. 6 blog entry complaining about the ban, written as an open letter to President Vladimir Putin, Natasha Pisarenko has attracted the wide attention of Russian media and, she fears, drawn the disapproving notice of authorities.

The adoption ban, which went into effect Jan. 1, is one of the most controversial moves of the first year of Mr. Putin's third term in the Kremlin. It was enacted as part of a bill retaliating for a new U.S. law that calls for sanctions against Russians deemed to be human rights violators.

But critics say it punishes innocent children by denying them a chance of escaping Russia's often-dismal orphanages.

About 20,000 people held a protest march against the measure in Moscow on Sunday that included banners likening Mr. Putin to King Herod, who the Bible says ordered the massacre of Jewish male infants.

Natasha wrote sarcastically that by signing the law, Mr. Putin was "saving children from American evil" and said that Russians rarely adopt disabled children because the country's medical system is backward and can't take care of them.

"They die because Russia doesn't have modern medicine," she wrote.

Natasha, blind from birth, writes that she has painful personal experience with Russia's medical inadequacy. She says that although her father detected her blindness within days of her birth, Russian doctors were unable to diagnose it for months.

But, she says, she received a precise diagnosis and the hope of treatment from German and American doctors.

"For Russian doctors, I am a child with an illness of unknown etiology but in Germany and America, I am a patient whose sight the doctors are trying to restore," she wrote.

Concluding her post, Natasha called on Mr. Putin to adopt five or 10 children with serious congenital disorders.

Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted by a local radio station as saying: "Of course, we will pay attention to such a statement.

"This girl is well-known to us. She's known by the regional authorities and by the Health Ministry," Mr. Peskov said.

Natasha and her parents have challenged authorities before, according to Russian media, notably when her parents agitated to have her educated at a regular school in her native Rostov-on-Don, rather than sending her away to a school for the blind.

She's now in 10th grade, one year short of graduation under the Russian system.

In a later post, she expressed worry that her letter would cause her parents to be called in for questioning by regional authorities.

When The Associated Press on Monday asked her father, Nikolai, if Natasha could be interviewed, he said he had been ordered not to comment to news media, but declined to say who issued the order.

"Probably, I will regret that I wrote what I think," Natasha wrote in her blog on Saturday.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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