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Putin signs antiadoption law, throwing pending adoptions into confusion (+video)

About 1,000 Russian children were adopted by US families in 2011, and around 50 such adoptions are pending.

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The new law is a sudden about face from Russia's previous position. Russia's foreign ministry spent years negotiating a detailed US-Russia adoption accord, which regulates virtually all aspects of the adoption process, and came into effect just last month.

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Correspondent

Fred Weir has been the Monitor's Moscow correspondent, covering Russia and the former Soviet Union, since 1998. 

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"I just don't understand how they can completely change the whole system for international adoptions, suddenly, all at once like this," says Svetlana Pronina, head of Child's Right, a Russian nongovernmental group that works for children's rights. 

"It looks to me like children have become hostages to the political situation, and this is not a wise way to approach the needs of Russian children," she adds.

"How is it that our authorities were able to ratify a major agreement with the US about adoptions just a few months ago, and now they decided to abolish it? What sense is there in this?" she says.

One year's warning ignored

The law is slated to come into effect on Jan. 1, though the US-Russia bilateral accord stipulates that either side must give one year's warning before withdrawing from the deal.

The original idea of the Dima Yakovlev law was to frame a symmetrical response to the US Magnitsky Act, which targets sanctions at about 60 Russian officials allegedly involved in the 2009 prison death of whistleblowing anticorruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.

That law would have levied visa and financial penalties on alleged US human rights violators, such as CIA officials involved in "black site" secret prisons, Guantanamo prison guards as well as US adoptive parents who abused their Russian-born children.

But after a series of amendments last week, the adoption ban was put front-and-center, along with measures that may lead to the closure of any NGO that receives US funding and stiff restrictions on US passport-holders (including thousands of dual US-Russia citizens) engaging in activities deemed "political" by authorities.

Pending adoptions a question

No one is sure what will happen with the approximately 50 cases of US-Russia adoption that are currently at various stages of completion.

Pavel Astakhov, the Kremlin's ombudsman for children's rights, who has been a strong supporter of the ban, says all current adoptions will be halted and the children re-assigned.

"There are 52 such children," Mr. Astakhov told the independent Interfax agency Friday. 

 "I believe they must be adopted in Russia, with the regional governors taking personal responsibility for them," he added.

Ilya Ponomaryov, the lone Duma deputy who voted against the Dima Yakovlev bill in all three readings, says there should now be absolutely no doubt about who was behind the adoption ban from the outset.

"The Duma has no independent will, it simply does what the executive branch tells it to," Mr. Ponomaryov says. "Now it's clear that this was Putin's initiative all along." 

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