The alleged death-by-abuse of a 3-year old adopted Russian boy in
Texas has triggered a fresh uproar in Russia, which recently passed
a law banning all US adoptions amid claims that Russian children who
go to the US are not adequately protected by the law and may be
singled out for special mistreatment.
The adoption issue has become the single most emotional topic on
the growing list of acrimonious US-Russia differences. The latest
allegation, though as-yet unverified, has generated a media
firestorm in Russia and has the Kremlin's children's rights
ombudsman and chief advocate for a total ban on foreign adoptions,
Pavel Astakhov, telling journalists that immediate action must be
taken to protect other vulnerable Russian children in the US.
"An adoptive mother has killed a three-year-old Russian child in
the state of Texas. The murder occurred at the end of January," Mr.
Astakhov wrote in his blog Monday.
"The boy died before an ambulance called by his mother arrived.
According to a report by medical examiners, the boy had numerous
injuries," he added.
If the facts cited by Astakhov are accurate, then the death of 3-
year-old Maxim Kuzmin, renamed Max Shatto when he came to the US,
would be the 20th documented case of a Russian child adopted by US
parents dying under suspicious circumstances in the past two
decades. That is an extremely small fraction of the approximately
60,000 such adoptions that have occurred over the same time period,
but every past example has ignited intense controversy in Russia and
bolstered calls by nationalists and communists to end for good the
"shameful" practice of exporting Russian children.
Texas Child Protective Services confirmed to the Associated Press
that it had received a report on Jan. 21 of the death of Max Shatto,
and that the Ector County Sheriff's Office in West Texas was
Russia's parliament observed a minute of silence Tuesday for
Maxim, and many deputies called for an immediate halt to all foreign
adoptions, even those that have already been approved by Russian
"Why should we send our children to certain death?" Svetlana
Orlova, deputy chair of the upper house of parliament, told the
Interfax news agency.
The downward spiral
As US-Russia relations spiraled downward late last year,
President Obama signed the Magnitsky Act, which imposes visa and
economic sanctions on a list of Russian officials who are accused of
serious human rights violations.
Russia swiftly responded with the Dima Yakovlev Act, named after
one of the Russian orphans who died, which prescribes a list of
restrictions on what US passport holders may do in Russia and bans
them from adopting Russian children. President Vladimir Putin
supported the measure, and signed it into law in late December.
Even some long time critics of foreign adoptions say that the
politicization of the issue has gone too far.
"Every such case of a child dying through abuse is a tragedy,
whether it happens here or in the US," says Nina Ostanina, a
longtime Communist deputy of the Duma who now works as an expert for
the Duma's commission on family, women, and children.
"For the past 20 years people in power were silent about such
tragedies and now they are shedding tears. But it's a pity that it's
rare that we come to know about such cases when they happen inside
Russia. They should all be made public.... Such cases should not be
politicized, and this is what is happening now," she adds.
It also happens in Russia
According to the Russian Ministry of Education, which oversees
adoptions, Russian children adopted by Russian families in Russia
have died through abuse or neglect at a rate that's far higher than
those adopted by American families. …