Orphan children have a meal at an orphanage in the southern
Russian city of Rostov-on-Don. Russian President Vladimir
Putin has signed a bill banning Americans from adopting
Russian children. REUTERS/Vladimir Konstantinov
President Vladimir Putin has signed a law that bans
Americans from adopting Russian children and imposes other
sanctions in retaliation for a new US human rights law that he
says is poisoning relations.
Washington has called the new Russian law misguided, saying
it ties the fate of children to "unrelated political
considerations", and analysts say it is likely to deepen a
chill in US-Russia relations and harm Putin's image abroad.
Fifty-two children whose adoptions by American parents were
under way will now remain in Russia, the Interfax news agency
cited Russia's child rights commissioner, Pavel Astakhov, as
The new law, which has also ignited outrage among Russian
liberals and child rights' advocates, takes effect on Jan. 1.
The legislation, whose text was issued by the Kremlin, will
also outlaw some non-governmental organisations that receive
US funding and impose a visa ban and asset freeze on
Americans accused of violating the rights of Russians abroad.
Pro-Kremlin lawmakers initially drafted the bill to mirror
the US Magnitsky Act, which bars entry to Russians accused of
involvement in the death in custody of anti-corruption lawyer
Sergei Magnitsky and other alleged rights abuses.
The restrictions on adoptions and non-profit groups were
added to the legislation later, going beyond a tit-for-tat
move and escalating a dispute with Washington at a time when
ties are already strained by issues such as the Syrian
The adoption ban may further tarnish Putin's international
standing at a time when the former KGB officer is under
scrutiny over what critics say is a crackdown on dissent
since he returned to the Kremlin for a third term in May.
"The law will lead to a sharp drop in the reputation of the
Kremlin and of Putin personally abroad, and signal a new
phase in relations between the United States and Russia,"
said Lilia Shevtsova, an expert on Putin with the Carnegie
"It is only the first harbinger of a chill."
Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the Magnitsky Act -
the US bill which prompted the new Russian law - had
"seriously undermined" the "reset", the moniker for the
effort US President Barack Obama launched early in his first
term to improve relations between the former Cold War foes.
Putin has backed the hawkish response with a mixture of
public appeals to patriotism, saying Russia should care for
its own children, and with belligerent denunciations of what
he says is the US desire to impose its will on the world.
Seeking to dampen criticism of the move, Putin also signed a
decree ordering an improvement in care for orphans.
Critics of the Russian legislation say Putin has held the
welfare of children trapped in a crowded and troubled
orphanage system hostage to political manoeuvring.
"He signed it after all! He signed one of the most shameful
laws in Russian history," a blogger named Yuri Pronko wrote
on the popular Russian site LiveJournal.
A hashtag that translates as "Putin eats children" was being
widely used on Twitter in Russia on Friday, and pro-Kremlin
microbloggers hit back with: "Putin supported orphans".
Russian authorities say the deaths of 19 Russian-born
children adopted by American parents in the past decade were
one of the main motives for the law as well as what they
perceive as the overly lenient treatment of those parents by
US courts and law enforcement agencies.
However, critics of the bill say Russian orphanages are
woefully overcrowded and that adoptions by Russian families
remain modest, with some 7,400 adoptions in 2011 compared
with 3,400 adoptions of Russian children by families abroad.
More than 650,000 children are considered orphans in Russia -
though some were rejected by their parents or taken from
dysfunctional homes. Of those, 110,000 lived in state
institutions in 2011, according to government figures.
Americans have adopted more than 45,000 Russian children
since 1999, including 962 last year.
In a poll conducted on Dec. 23 by the Moscow-based Public
Opinion Foundation, 75 percent of respondents said Russia
should place additional restrictions on foreign adoptions or
The acquittal on Friday of the only person being tried over
Magnitsky's death will fuel accusations by Kremlin critics
that the Russian authorities have no intention of seeking
justice in a case that has harmed Russia's image.
A Russian court acquitted Dmitry Kratov, the former deputy
head of a jail where Magnitsky was held before his death in
2009, after prosecutors dropped charges against him.
Lawyers for Magnitsky's family said they will appeal and
called for further investigation.
Magnitsky's colleagues say he is the victim of retribution
from the same police investigators he had accused of stealing
$230 million from the state through fraudulent tax refunds -
a similar charge to the one Magnitsky faced.
The case against Magnitsky was closed after his death but was
reopened again in August 2011.
In an unprecedented move, Russia is trying Magnitsky
posthumously for fraud, despite protests from his family and
lawyers that it is unconstitutional to try a dead man. A
preliminary hearing is scheduled next month.
Magnitsky's death triggered an international outcry with
Kremlin critics saying it underscored the dangers faced by
Russians who challenge the authorities.
The Kremlin's own human rights council said Magnitsky was
probably beaten to death, but Putin said in a televised press
conference last week that he had died of heart failure.