Russia's upper house of parliament today unanimously approved a
ban on US citizens adopting Russian children, a highly charged move
that appears to have prompted an unusual public split among
The Dima Yakovlev bill, named after one of 19 Russian children to
die due to abuse or negligence at the hands of adoptive US parents
in the past two decades, now goes to the Kremlin for President
Vladimir Putins consideration. In his only comments so far on the
anti-adoption measure, Mr. Putin said last week that it was
"emotional but adequate," which is widely seen as an indication that
he will sign it into law.
The legislation was originally framed as a tit-for-tat response
to the Magnitsky Act, a US measure signed into law by President
Barack Obama earlier this month that aims to punish officials
connected to the 2009 prison death of Russian whistle-blowing lawyer
Sergei Magnitsky. But the Russian legislation has been amended
beyond recognition by hardline lawmakers and now looks like a
shotgun law to punish US citizens who become involved in almost any
kind of non-business activity in Russia.
Many experts think that Putin may yet act as the "voice of
reason" and strip the ban on adoption out of the bill before he
"This whole discussion over the adoption ban has served the
purpose of shifting public attention from the corrupt Russian
officials targeted under the US Magnitsky Act to the problems of
orphans and the dangers they face in foreign homes," says Nikolai
Petrov, an expert with the Moscow Carnegie Center.
"It's perfectly possible that Putin will ultimately adjust the
adoption ban, but leave in place many of the other tough measures in
this bill that haven't gotten much attention," Mr. Petrov says.
Those measures include even harsher restrictions that would prevent
any US passport holder from holding a leadership post in any Russian
organization that is deemed by authorities to engage in politics.
The adoption ban has also become the focus of controversy and
prompted a rare government split inside Russia. This week a liberal
radio station leaked news of a memo by Deputy Prime Minister Olga
Golodets warning that the proposed ban would violate Russian law and
at least two treaties that Russia is party to. It would also
overturn a bilateral accord on adoptions, negotiated between the
United States and Russia, which came into force last month.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Education Minister Dmitry
Livanov have also spoken out against the anti-adoption bill. Putins
spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, voiced annoyance that the governments
internal disagreements were being aired in public, but still
signaled support for the measure.
"Learning about official correspondence from the media is not
always pleasant," Mr. Peskov told the Kommersant FM radio station
yesterday. But "it would be a mistake to think that there is staunch
opposition to the bill within government. On the contrary, there are
many arguments in favor of it," he said.
Many Russians believe it is a national shame that thousands of
children are adopted by foreigners each year. According to a public
opinion survey published this week by the state-run Public Opinion
Fund, 56 percent of Russians support the proposed adoption ban,
while just 21 percent oppose it. …