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Russia's Medvedev to sign international adoption accord

When Russian President Medvedev visits Washington this week, he will sign a new agreement on international adoption.

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Nina Ostanina, a Duma deputy who introduced a bill -- which was delayed by the Duma -- to halt all international adoptions on the heels of Artyom's case, says she's not entirely satisfied with the deal that's been struck.

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"Our children are not protected, and I hope the new agreement will change this situation," she says. "But nobody will ever convince me that our children do not have the right to grow up in the land of their birth. A child has the right to speak his own language and find happiness in his own country."

The murder earlier this month of another Russian child, 8-year old Kirill Kazakov, who was found stabbed to death near his adoptive home in Francisville, La., appears to have convinced US and Russian authorities to redouble efforts to reach agreement on an adoption framework.

"Against the backdrop of the recent tragic incidents involving Russian children adopted in the US, [Kazakov's death] only adds determination in getting the Americans to restore order to adoptions, primarily through the soonest possible conclusion of an appropriate bilateral agreement," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said in a statement this week.

Boris Altschuler, a longtime campaigner for children's rights who contributed to drafting the new accord, says many of the key issues have been successfully addressed.

"The main achievement is a ban on independent adoptions" carried out without the mediation of a professional agency, he says. "Because of the level of corruption in Russia, it is really impossible to properly supervise independent adoptions and ensure they're done properly. This was the main source of problems in the past."

Other changes, such as the requirement that adoptive parents undergo special training, are not especially new, says Alyona Senkevich, Russia coordinator of the Arizona-based Hand-in-Hand adoption agency.

"We've always done this with our clients," she says, referring to methods of preparing parents to deal with a child with whom they have no common language at first, and other international complications. "In the past, Russian courts have often demanded that prospective parents provide details on the child until it reaches adulthood. So, there's not that much new here."

But, she says, a formal deal will put an end to the threat of a total freeze on international adoptions that has been hanging over the agencies' heads since the Artyom Savelyov case broke.

"This is definitely very positive. I hope Medvedev and Obama will confront these tragic cases that have happened, and see them as our common problem. After all, we're dealing with children, who deserve to be protected," she says.