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Russia's adoption ban exposes political rift (+video)

Russian President Putin is expected to back the parliament's adoption ban. But the move has exposed a rare split in the government, with some top officials speaking out against the ban.

By Correspondent / December 26, 2012

Alexander D'Jamoos, center, poses with his adoptive parents, Michael and Helene D'Jamoos, and his younger brother, Marc, on a family vacation in the US Virgin Islands in 2008. Alexander, who was born with no legs, grew up in a Russian orphanage and was adopted after he came to Texas to have a prosthesis attached that enabled him to walk. He is angry over new legislation passed in Moscow that bans adoptions of Russian children by Americans.

Sasha D'jamoos/Family photo/AP

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Moscow

Russia's upper house of parliament today unanimously approved a ban on US citizens adopting Russian children, a highly charged move that appears to have prompted an unusual public split among government officials. 

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The upper chamber of Russia's parliament on Wednesday unanimously voted in favor of a measure banning Americans from adopting Russian children.

The Dima Yakovlev bill, named after one of 19 Russian children to die due to abuse or negligence at the hands of adoptive US parents in the past two decades, now goes to the Kremlin for President Vladimir Putin’s consideration. In his only comments so far on the antiadoption measure, Mr. Putin said last week that it was "emotional but adequate," which is widely seen as an indication that he will sign it into law.

The legislation was originally framed as a tit-for-tat response to the Magnitsky Act, a US measure signed into law by President Obama earlier this month that aims to punish officials connected to the 2009 prison death of Russian whistle-blowing lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. But the Russian legislation has been amended beyond recognition by hard-line lawmakers and now looks like a shotgun law to punish US citizens who become involved in almost any kind of non-business activity in Russia.

Many experts think that Putin may yet act as the "voice of reason" and strip the ban on adoption out of the bill before he signs it.

"This whole discussion over the adoption ban has served the purpose of shifting public attention from the corrupt Russian officials targeted under the US Magnitsky Act to the problems of orphans and the dangers they face in foreign homes," says Nikolai Petrov, an expert with the Moscow Carnegie Center.

"It's perfectly possible that Putin will ultimately adjust the adoption ban, but leave in place many of the other tough measures in this bill that haven't gotten much attention," Mr. Petrov says. Those measures include even harsher restrictions that would prevent any US passport holder from holding a leadership post in any Russian organization that is deemed by authorities to engage in politics.

The adoption ban has also become the focus of controversy and prompted a rare government split inside Russia. This week a liberal radio station leaked news of a memo by Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets warning that the proposed ban would violate Russian law and at least two treaties that Russia is party to. It would also overturn a bilateral accord on adoptions, negotiated between the United States and Russia, which came into force last month.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Education Minister Dmitry Livanov have also spoken out against the antiadoption bill. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, voiced annoyance that the government’s internal disagreements were being aired in public, but still signaled support for the measure.

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