- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 13, 2003

MOSCOW — More than 1,000 Russian would-be “cyber brides” are lobbying the U.S. Congress to halt laws intended to protect them from exploitation.

The women, who are members of the biggest American-owned dating agency that recruits in the former Soviet Union, claim the new laws would destroy their hopes of finding husbands over the Internet.

A bill passing through Congress would force American matchmaking agencies — mostly run from Web sites — to give foreign women details of the marital history and any criminal record of suitors.

Supporters say that the move — inspired by the death of Anastasia King, 20, who was killed on the orders of her American husband — is designed to protect from violent husbands the estimated 5,000 cyber brides, or “mail-order” brides, who enter the United States every year.

But about 1,200 women registered in Russia with the agency named A Foreign Affair have signed a petition claiming that the new law is patronizing.

“I don’t want to know this kind of information about a man when we’re getting acquainted,” said Yelena Kostennikova, 32, a designer from St. Petersburg who is seeking an “honest, dependable, sensual man.”

“If there is something wrong, I’d prefer to find out later in the relationship. If you meet a man in a bar, you don’t ask about his criminal record.”

Galia Elpacheva, 19, a law student, said: “It’s an issue that touches human dignity. It would be humiliating and inconvenient to demand these details every time a man wanted to contact me.”

The new law — known officially as the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act — is seen in the United States as the most serious effort yet to impose federal controls over a loosely regulated Internet-based industry.

The bill was drafted after Mrs. King, from Kyrgyzstan, was murdered by her American husband, Indle King Jr, 39.

King’s first wife had obtained a protective order against him in 1995, and the bill’s supporters say that Anastasia King might have lived had she known that.

As it was, the gifted singer and pianist was matched by an international marriage agency with King, a portly, balding warehouse clerk. Seeking a new life outside her impoverished homeland, she married her much older suitor in 1998.

Her diary, found after her death, said King had threatened to kill her if she left him. In December 2000, Mrs. King’s body was found in a shallow grave 30 miles from her home.

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