Published — Saturday 22 December 2012
Last update 22 December 2012 1:53 am
MOSCOW: Russia’s lower house of Parliament approved a law banning Americans from adopting Russian children yesterday, in retaliation for US human rights legislation which Vladimir Putin says is poisoning relations. The State Duma overwhelmingly backed a bill which also outlaws US-funded “non-profit organizations that engage in political activity,” extending what critics say is a clampdown on Putin’s opponents since he returned to the presidency in May. The law responds to US legislation known as the Magnitsky Act, passed by the US Congress to impose visa bans and asset freezes on Russian officials accused of involvement in the death in custody of anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in 2009. Washington’s ambassador to Moscow, Michael McFaul, said the Russian bill unfairly “linked the fate of orphaned children to unrelated political issues.” Putin hinted at a news conference on Thursday that he would sign it into law once the Senate votes on it next week, describing it as an emotional but appropriate response to an unfriendly move by the United States.
“It is a myth that all children who land in American families are happy and surrounded by love,” Olga Batalina, a deputy with Putin’s ruling United Russia party, said in defense of the new measures.
In a pointed echo of the Magnitsky Act, the Russian legislation has become known as the Dima Yakovlev law, after a Russian-born toddler who died after his American adoptive father left him in locked in a sweltering car. The law has outraged Russian liberals who say children are being made victims of politics. Some government officials, including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, have expressed reservations about the legislation.