(MOSCOW) — Russia took one step closer to cutting off adoptions by American families Friday.
The lower house of parliament approved a bill that would ban adoptions to the U.S. It was an amendment to a broader measure retaliating for human rights sanctions signed by President Obama a week ago. It also slaps reciprocal sanctions on what they deem to be American human rights abusers.
The ban still requires approval from the upper house of parliament and President Putin’s signature before it becomes law. But so far, Putin has shown no sign of blocking it.
On Thursday Putin dodged repeated questions about the ban, saying he had to read the text before opining (for the record, the language of the ban is two sentences long).
Meanwhile, Russian human rights activists have cried foul, saying this plays politics with the lives of orphans. Even Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, usually staunchly anti-American, said the ban is “wrong.”
Activists have protested outside the parliament all week, but the measure has strong support from patriotic elements of Russian society, including leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church and Russia’s children’s ombudsman.
Putin did, however, point out some wiggle room during Thursday’s press conference.
The newly minted U.S.-Russia agreement on adoptions requires a one year notice if one side wants to withdraw — meaning that even if the ban is approved now, it’s possible that adoptions could still continue for a year, which is plenty of time to reverse the decision if the Kremlin wants to.
The U.S. Ambassador to Russia, however, issued a statement Friday condemning the lower house’s actions.
“If it becomes law, the legislation passed today will needlessly remove the path to families for hundreds of Russian children each year. The welfare of children is simply too important to be linked to others’ issues in our bilateral relationship,” Michael McFaul said.
Russia is typically the third most popular place for Americans to adopt. The U.S. Embassy there says 60,000 children have been adopted by American parents since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Russian lawmakers, who are seething about the U.S. sanctions, want blood, and are seizing on popular anger (stoked by Kremlin statements and state-run media) over the death of 19 Russian-adopted children over the years and what they believe are lenient sentences issued to parents accused of abusing adopted Russians.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Sheena McKenzie, CNN
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