A controversial bill that would halt American adoptions of Russian children was approved by the upper chamber of the Russian parliament. The bill is retaliation for a new U.S. law targeting Russian human rights violators.
MOSCOW — The upper chamber of Russia's parliament has unanimously voted in favor of a measure banning Americans from adopting Russian children.
It now goes to President Vladimir Putin to sign or turn down.
The bill is one part of a larger measure by lawmakers retaliating against a recently signed U.S. law that calls for sanctions against Russians deemed to be human rights violators.
Some top government officials, including the foreign minister, have spoken against the bill, arguing that it would be in violation of Russia's constitution and international obligations.
Several people protesting the bill were detained outside the Federation Council on Wednesday morning.
Critics of the bill say it victimizes orphans by depriving them of an opportunity to escape often-dismal Russian orphanages. There are about 740,000 children without parental custody in Russia.
American families adopt more Russian children — 956 last year — than those of any other country. Of the children adopted by Americans in 2011, 9 percent — or 89 — were disabled, according to official Russian figures.
"Russia is not able to provide for all its orphans," Boris Altshuler, director of the Moscow-based Rights of the Child advocacy group, said. "Although 1,000 is a small fraction — it was a help."
The bill is named in honor of Dima Yakovlev, a Russian toddler who was adopted by Americans and then died in 2008 after his father left him in a car in broiling heat for hours. The father was found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter. Russian lawmakers argue that by banning adoptions to the U.S. they would be protecting children and encouraging adoptions inside Russia.
Russian children rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov told the Interfax news agency that 46 children who were about to be adopted by U.S. citizens would stay in Russia — despite court rulings in some of these cases authorizing the adoptions.
Astakhov also insisted that all adoptions would be halted once the bill is signed by Putin, but a senior lawmaker at the Federation Council insisted it cannot be enacted immediately.
Mikhail Margelov, chairman of the Council's foreign affairs committee, said that a bilateral Russian-U.S. agreement binds Russia to notify of a halt in adoptions 12 months in advance.
Putin hasn't committed to signing the bill but referred to it as a legitimate response to the new U.S. law.
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