Russia's parliament has approved a measure banning Americans from adopting Russian children.
Lawmakers from Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, approved the bill after a second reading Wednesday. To become law, the bill must pass a third reading, then clear the upper house before going to President Vladimir Putin for his signature.
Mr. Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, expressed the president's stance on the measure, saying while Mr. Putin understands the emotions that prompted the move by parliamentarians, the executive's position is more "restrained."
Top Russian officials have voiced opposition to the bill. Duma Deputy Ilya Ponomaryov, a member of the opposition Just Russia party, criticized the measure as being without principle.
"This is an outrageous, despicable law -- absolutely unbalanced. The Duma has stood to defend corrupt Russians, and what's more, they've done this in the most exploitative manner -- by bringing up the problems of children. Half a year ago, United Russia was the first to say that international adoption had to be allowed when they discussed the ratification of the law with the Americans. Now, they are the first ones against it. This is a position absolutely without principle, and this is all for money.''
The legislation essentially bans adoption of Russian children by U.S. families, ends bilateral adoption agreements between the two countries and forbids U.S. adoption agencies from working in Russia.
It is seen as retaliation for a recently passed U.S. law, the Magnitsky Act, which imposes a visa ban and financial sanctions on Russian officials accused of violating human rights.
The U.S. bill is named after Sergei Magnitsky, a 37-year-old Russian anti-corruption lawyer who died in jail in 2009 after exposing what he called a criminal ring of officials who stole $250 million in tax money. The legislation is designed to target Russian officials involved in Magnitsky's detention, abuse or death.
Another Just Russia Party Member praised the Magnitsky Act while calling the ban on adoptions "despicable."
"First of all, I think the Magnitsky law is pro-Russian -- let's start with that -- because it forbids swindlers, thieves and bandits from entering the territory of the United States. They steal our money here, kill our citizens, and then they want to go there for vacation, to study and to spend that money. Therefore it's absolutely pro-Russian. Concerning these absolutely insane amendments (banning adoptions), it's an absolutely despicable decision, like in one Soviet film where Germans tortured our children to get evidence from prisoners of war, it's the same sort of thing."
The Russian adoption bill is named after Dima Yakovlev, a Russian boy who died after his adoptive U.S. father left him locked in a car for hours. U.S. courts later acquitted the father of manslaughter charges.
Olga Batalina, from the ruling United Russia party, said the measure was about the rights and treatment of children adopted in the United States.
"If there is a doubt that on the territory of the United States there will not be an adequate level of safety provided for a child, this is serious grounds for the suspension and ban of adoption. Unfortunately, the current position of American authorities speaks of their extreme indifference to the fate of Russian children."
Chakarian Vivian Rose