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Russia Opens Criminal Case in Adoptee Death

Russia's children rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov speaks during a news conference in Moscow, January 17, 2013.
Russia's Investigative Committee opened a criminal case on Tuesday against a mother in the United States blamed for the death in January of a three-year-old Russian adoptee. The move represents the latest development in a high-profile diplomatic war that has severely strained U.S.-Russian relations.

Russian investigators said they will apply for the arrest-in-absentia of a Texas mother they believe is responsible for the death of a three-year-old Russian adoptee they identify as Maxim Kuzmin.

Investigators launched a criminal case into the matter one day after Russia's ombudsman for children, Pavel Astakhov, claimed the boy died after suffering abuse from his mother, whom officials identified only as L. Shatto.

Authorities in Texas are still investigating the case, but a local obituary confirms the January 21 death of a three-year-old Texas boy named Max Alan Shatto. It identifies the mother as Laura Shatto.

The accusation is the latest in a diplomatic dispute between Russia and the United States about what Russian officials say is the systemic abuse of Russian adoptees by American parents.

Russia banned the adoption of its children by American families late last year in response to a U.S. law that levels travel and economic sanctions against Russian officials believed to be involved in human rights abuses. That law was named after Sergei Magnitsky, a whistle-blowing lawyer who died in prison more than three years ago after accusing Russian tax officials of massive fraud.

Russia’s lower house of parliament held a moment of silence for Kuzmin in its session on Tuesday.