Russian official: U.S. adoption ban will stand

Mikhail Metzel/AP - Russia's children rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov speaks during his news conference in Moscow on Jan. 17, 2013. Astakhov has insisted that American families in legal limbo in their attempts to adopt children will be allowed to take them back to the U.S.

MOSCOW — Russia’s children’s ombudsman vigorously endorsed the ban on U.S. adoptions Thursday, saying there was no chance it would be lifted no matter how large the protest. However, the 50 or so American families who have received court decisions will be able to take their children home, he said.

In a combative news conference, Pavel Astakhov, the ombudsman, said he has been opposed to U.S. adoptions ever since 2010, when a Tennessee woman put her 7-year-old alone on a plane bound for Moscow accompanied only by a note saying she was returning him because he was violent and unstable.

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Russia's president cracks down on dissent.
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Russia's president cracks down on dissent.

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“We must stop selling our children,” he said.

But he repeatedly said the families with court decrees can take their children, even though regional officials have apparently been refusing to finish the adoptions. “We are talking about 52 families,” he said, “maybe more, maybe less.”

He conceded that some of those families have been denied the final paperwork and promised to intervene personally in those cases.

“Judges are afraid, employees of migration offices are afraid,” he said. “Everyone’s afraid. That’s the reality, unfortunately.”

The ban, enacted by Russia’s legislature in December and signed by President Vladimir Putin, has devastated American families who wanted to adopt. It also has unleashed considerable furor among Russians, with tens of thousands marching in protest of the ban Sunday. Many here say that orphaned children will never get the love, education and health care in Russia that they would get in the United States, and they have criticized their leaders for playing politics with children’s lives.

The law, passed 420 to 7 in the lower house and unanimously in the upper house, was cast as retaliation for the U.S. Magnitsky Act, which imposed visa and financial sanctions on corrupt Russian officials.

 
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