In what many see as the latest evidence of the deterioration between U.S. and Russian relations, the upper chamber of Russia's parliament on Wednesday unanimously backed a measure banning Americans from adopting Russian children.
The Yakolev bill was initiated by the ruling United Russia party and, if signed into law, will effectively prohibit the adoption of Russian orphans by Americans and will dismantle any organizations working out of the country that act as intermediaries in the adoption process.
The bill will now go to President Vladimir Putin, which he can either sign and make into law or turn down.
Many critics of the bill view it as Russia's attempt at using orphans as political pawns, as the bill is largely a response to the Magnitsky Act, recently signed into law by President Obama. The law is named after lawyer Sergey Magnitsky, who died in pre-trial detention in Moscow and bans specific Russian officials who were allegedly involved in the death from entering the US and freezes their American-held assets.
Last Thursday, Putin tried to explain the logic behind the bill to a group of Russian and foreign journalists.
Putin responded with apparent rage at many of the questions thrown at him, as journalists asked why he had made “the most destitute and helpless children into instruments of political battle.” He responded by pointing the finger at the U.S. saying the U.S. "humiliates" Russia, adding, “You think that’s normal? What’s normal about being humiliated? You like that? What are you, a sadomasochist? The country will not be humiliated.”
Although the bill passed unanimously in parliament, the bill has sparked debate and outrage among the Russian people.
Critics insist the bill not only deprives capable and willing American couples from being able to raise children of their own but also insist that the main victims will be Russian orphans, who may not get a chance to find parents and may be forced instead to grow up in an orphanage.
One petition, initiated by Russian adoptive parents, states, “We hope we are united in understanding that children should never be dragged into politics under any circumstances."
“We know that over 120,000 children are in Russian orphanages, most of whom will never get qualified medical treatment, parental love and tenderness. We know that Russian citizens rarely adopt seriously ill children, because it’s very hard to pay for needed rehabilitation,” the petition states.
State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told the New York Times that the U.S. has reached out to Russia in an attempt to trash the bill, saying, “Each year, thousands of children find loving, nurturing homes through intercountry adoptions, and the lives of thousands of American families have been enriched by welcoming Russian orphans into their homes."
Estimates show that Americans adopt between 1,000 and 3,000 Russian children every year. Since 1999, there have been a total of 45,112 adoptions.