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MOSCOW, April 18 (RIA Novosti) - The United States is a country where Russian children are adopted most often: a fourth (about 5,000) out of the 20,000 children adopted by Americans annually are Russian. In all, 7,852 children were adopted by foreigners in Russia in 2003, which is even more than by Russians. Meanwhile, since 1996 at least twelve Russian children have died in the United States, the daily Russian Gazette writes.

The average price of adoption is 20,000 to 25,000 dollars, including the price of air tickets (flying to Russia at least two times), hotel accommodation, pay for medical certification of the child, transfer of notified documents etc.

There are in Russia today about a hundred isolated agencies handling international adoption. They do not form a union.

On the agenda is the ratification of The Hague convention on children's protection and cooperation in the field of international adoption, which Russia signed in 2000. This convention is to streamline the international adoption procedure (particularly, it intends the existence of a central children-adoption body) and make it possible to monitor the living and education conditions of children adopted to other countries.

Meanwhile, head of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and president of its charity fund Center for Help to Homeless Children Yevgeni Primakov is sure that Russia and the United States should conclude "a bilateral intergovernmental agreement concerning the fate of Russian adopted children". This will ensure an even more efficient monitoring of the children's fate than the ratification of the convention, experts say.

Russia has 700,000 orphans, including neglected children having the living parents. The number of homeless and neglected children has exceeded one million.

The number of orphanages keeps growing in Russia. While in the early 1990s Russia had 1,000 children's homes and boarding schools, there are more than 2,000 of them today.

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