Russia's lower house approves US adoption ban

Bill also proposes to ban US-funded non-governmental organisations that do any political work in Russia.

    Russia's lower house of parliament has approved a law banning Americans from adopting Russian children, in retaliation for US human rights legislation which President Vladimir Putin says is harming relations.

    "Children should not be a bargaining chip in international affairs"

    - Mikhail Fedotov,
    Head of Kremlin's human rights council

    The bill, passed on Friday in its third and final reading by a vote of 420-7, now goes to the upper house of parliament for approval.

    The State Duma also backed a bill which outlaws US-funded "non-profit organisations that engage in political activity", extending what critics say is a clampdown on Putin's opponents since he returned to the presidency in May.

    The law responds to US legislation known as the Magnitsky Act, passed by the US Congress to impose visa bans and asset freezes on Russian officials accused of involvement in the death in custody of anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in 2009.

    Putin hinted at a news conference on Thursday that he would sign it into law once the Senate votes on it next week,
    describing it as an emotional but appropriate response to an unfriendly move by the United States.

    "It is a myth that all children who land in American families are happy and surrounded by love," Olga Batalina, a
    deputy with Putin's ruling United Russia party, said in defence of the new measures.

    'Bargaining chip'

    The Russian legislation has become known as the Dima Yakovlev law, after a Russian-born toddler who died after his American adoptive father left him locked in a sweltering car.

    There have been reports in Russia about some children who were mistreated by their new US parents [Reuters]

    It has outraged Russian liberals who say children are being made victims of politics. Some government officials, including
    Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, have expressed reservations about the legislation.

    "Children should not be a bargaining chip in international affairs," said Mikhail Fedotov, the head of the Kremlin's human
    rights council.

    Last year, 962 Russian children from orphanages were adopted by Americans while over 45,000 have found homes in the US since the 1991 Soviet collapse. Their parents are either dead or unable to care for them and some have complex medical needs.

    The spat is overshadowing efforts to improve relations with US President Barack Obama's administration.

    Signalling Moscow is worried about long-term damage to trade and diplomatic ties, Lavrov has taken the rare step of appearing to stake out a view that differs from the Kremlin line.

    The Kremlin hopes Obama will visit Russia for a summit in 2013.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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