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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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President Vladimir Putin signed the Dima Yakovlev Act into law Friday, banning all adoptions of Russian orphans by US citizens as of Jan. 1 and throwing dozens of currently ongoing adoptions into confusion.

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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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The mood among workers in the almost 40 Russia-accredited adoption agencies, which have survived repeated bouts of political tensions and ever-tightening regulations over the years, was near despair Friday.

"We have two cases of adoption in court and we're just asking ourselves the same question, what will be next?" says Lyudmila Babich, of the Cold Spring, New York-based Happy Families Center.

"We have no text of this law, nor any explanations of what's supposed to happen now. So, we're waiting," she says.

Any hope that Mr. Putin might impose some restraint upon a measure that even members of his own cabinet have criticized as possibly illegal and diplomatically disruptive were dashed Thursday when Putin explicitly endorsed the adoption ban and other tough measures against US citizens working in Russia in televised remarks.

"I see no reason not to sign the law," Putin said.

He added that he would also sign a presidential decree to improve procedures for adopting Russian orphans and abandoned children domestically, and also boost measures to help children with serious disabilities and health problems – who were previously the major pool of orphans made available for foreign adoption.

About 1,000 Russian children were adopted by US families in 2011, down from the annual average of 3,000 or so in the past decade, and only a small portion of the 120,000 Russian children who are considered eligible for adoption. Under Russian law, a child can be offered to prospective foreign parents only after having been rejected three times by Russian families.

Framed as 'selling' children

Russian nationalists argue that it's a shame for Russian children to be "sold" abroad, and several of the lawmakers who championed the Dima Yakovlev bill argued they will sponsor further efforts to ease the plight of Russia's huge numbers of institutionalized children.

Putin lent his support to the harshest critics of international adoption Thursday, by casually likening Russian children taken into US families to economic refugees.

"There are probably many places in the world where living standards are higher than ours. So what, are we going to send all our children there?" Putin said with sarcasm. "Maybe we should move there ourselves?" 

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