WASHINGTON, June 4 (RIA Novosti) – More than 150 members of the US Congress have urged President Barack Obama to prioritize resolving several hundred pending US adoptions of Russian children when he meets President Vladimir Putin later this month.
In a letter to Obama, the lawmakers state that the prospective Russian adoptees are “children without parents, families or homes. Many are in need of urgent medical care; all are in need of a future filled with promise."
“These children have already been promised homes in America, and they have bonded with these American parents. The Government of Russia’s unwillingness to allow their cases to be completed adds yet another trauma to their young lives,” the letter states.
The letter was authored by US Senator Mary Landrieu, an adoptive mother and co-chair of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption. It was signed by 154 members of Congress representing 44 states.
Obama and Putin are scheduled to hold a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G8 summit in Northern Ireland June 17 and 18. There was no immediate comment on the letter from the White House.
There are an estimated 278 Russian orphans who had met and bonded with American families and were in the midst of being adopted when Russia imposed a ban on all adoptions by Americans.
The ban went into effect on January 1, just days after Obama signed the controversial Magnitsky Act – which prohibits US visas for Russian officials or ordinary citizens deemed by Washington to have violated human rights and freezes any assets they may have in the United States.
The ban was widely seen as a retaliatory move – Russia had said it would regard passage of the Magnitsky legislation as an unwarranted and unfriendly act and would respond as it judged appropriate.
But Russian officials have also raised questions about mistreatment of Russian children adopted by US families. At least 20 adopted Russian children have died in the care of their American families since the early 1990s.
"We ask you to raise this issue with President Putin directly in the hopes that two world leaders can step back for a moment and find a way out of the political morass for a few hundred wounded children," the letter reads.
It adds, “Based on the briefings we have received from the Department of State and US Citizenship and Immigration Services, we know that there are options for bringing these children home, despite the ban.”
There are a number of contentious international issues for Obama and Putin to discuss, including the conflict in Syria, North Korea, and closer counter terrorism and security cooperation between Russian and US law enforcement bodies.