MOSCOW, December 19 (RIA Novosti) – A controversial amendment that would ban US citizens from adopting Russian children passed in a second reading in the State Duma on Wednesday.
The draft law retaliates for enactment of the Magnitsky Act in the US, which imposes visa bans and asset freezes on Russian officials deemed guilty of human rights abuses.
The amendment approved on Wednesday would also bar Russian organizations from facilitating adoptions by US citizens.
The original bill, without the ban, passed a first reading last week.
It will come up for a third and final reading on Friday and could come into effect in January once approved by the Federation Council and signed by the president.
The draft law was dubbed the Dima Yakovlev bill, after a 21-month-old who died of heatstroke in July 2008 after his adoptive father, Miles Harrison, left him unattended in a car for nine hours.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and President Vladimir Putin refrained from voicing a stance on the bill on Wednesday.
Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stressed that the bill was initiated by the Duma, not the Kremlin.
The bill is the “quite natural, yet emotional” position of lawmakers over “an unfriendly act by our American partners,” Peskov said in an interview with the Rossiya 24 television network on Wednesday.
“The lawmakers reacted. It’s their decision, their position and their initiative,” he said.
Peskov added that “the state has a responsibility to protect children from danger and from situations that might expose them to danger.”
Putin himself hasn’t commented on the new ban yet but voiced support last week for sanctioning US citizens implicated in rights abuses against Russians.
Medvedev blamed demand for foreign adoptions on “a lack of concern for orphans on the part of the state and the public” and called on Russians to do more to solve the problem.
“This is sad and we should have a frank discussion about it,” Medvedev said at a meeting with the top body of the United Russia party, whose lawmakers backed the bill. He did not spell out his stance on the adoption ban.
The proposed ban has sparked a public outcry among both officials and civic groups. Critics say that the move will strand thousands of children, especially those with disabilities, in Russia’s outdated state institutions.
Since 1999, parents in the US have adopted more than 45,000 Russian children, including 962 last year, according to the US State Department. Russian officials claim at least 19 Russian children adopted by Americans have died in that period.