Russia Threatens to Cut Off Adoptions to US

MOSCOW - Members of the ruling United Russia party are threatening to cut off adoptions to the United States in retaliation for a set of human rights sanctions President Obama signed into law on Friday.

Lawmakers in the lower house of parliament said on Monday they are prepared to introduce an amendment that would apply the ban to all adoptions by US citizens, Deputy Speaker of the State Duma Sergei Neverov said, according to RIA Novosti.

"I think it will be approved," he said.

Russia has promised a tough response to the Magnitsky Act, which places travel bans and financial sanctions on an unreleased list of Russian human rights violators. The law was named after whistleblower lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who was arrested after uncovering evidence of massive government fraud. He died in prison in 2009 with signs of abuse.

Until now, Russian officials suggested their response would slap reciprocal sanctions on US officials but on Friday they suggested broadening the list to include American parents accused of abusing adopted Russian children as well as judges that gave them lenient punishments.

A ban on adoptions to the US would take that a big step further.

The bill was introduced last week and is scheduled to receive a second reading this week, when the amendment is expected to be introduced. A third reading is planned for later this month, after which it would pass to the upper house where it would likely be approved.

Adoptions to the United States have been a hot topic in Russia in recent years, sparked by high-profile cases of abused Russian adoptees. Adoptions nearly ground to a halt in 2010 after a Tennessee woman put her 7-year old adopted Russian son, Artyom, on a plane back to Russia alone with little more than a note saying she did not want him anymore.

His is among the nearly two dozen cases cited by Russian media of adopted children who allegedly suffered at the hands of adopted American parents. Russia is one of the most popular places in the world for Americans wanting to adopt. Tens of thousands of Russian children have been adopted by American parents since the fall of the Soviet Union.

The issue, however, has also become a politicized amid a wave of anti-Americanism. Officials have repeatedly threatened to ban adoptions, but diplomatic solutions have found a way to keep the process going.

The two countries signed a new adoption agreement last year, requiring new screening for prospective adoptive parents and providing Russians with rights to visit adopted children in the United States.

The lawmakers who advocated for a full cutoff of adoptions to the United States reportedly say they will make up for the ban by increasing funding for Russia's woefully inadequate orphanages.