MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin signed a law barring U.S. adoptions of Russian children Friday in retaliation for American human-rights sanctions — a move seen as complicating Washington-Moscow relations.
The measure will go into effect Jan. 1, according to a statement emailed by the Kremlin. Putin signed the law hours after a Moscow court acquitted the only Russian official to stand trial over lawyer Sergei Magnitsky’s death in custody, which prompted the U.S. sanctions.
The adoption ban is part of a package of measures approved by Putin that bars entry to American violators of the rights of Russian citizens and orders the closing of U.S.-funded nongovernmental organizations engaged in political activity.
The law is a retaliation against a bill approved by U.S. lawmakers this month imposing visa restrictions and an asset freeze on Russian officials allegedly linked to Magnitsky’s death and other human-rights abuses.
The United States has “deep concerns” about the Russian measure, State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said yesterday in an emailed statement.
Putin Thursday blamed U.S. authorities for denying access to adopted children for Russian representatives, acting in a “provocatively arrogant” manner and making decisions seen as “legally unfounded” by Russia.
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, called the issue a matter of “national prestige.”
“Of course there are places where you have a more comfortable lifestyle but that doesn’t mean that we should send our children there,” Peskov said. “The important thing is to create the same conditions at home. That’s what this law aims to accomplish.”
Senior Russian officials, including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets, criticized the adoption ban.
Meanwhile, Dmitry Kratov, a prison official who had been charged with negligence and failure to provide medical care that contributed to Magnitsky’s death, was found not guilty Friday, state television reported.
Magnitsky, an attorney for London-based Hermitage Capital, alleged a $230 million tax fraud by Russian officials.
He died at age 37 in November 2009 after being beaten to death and denied medical care during almost a year in pre-trial detention on fabricated tax-evasion charges, according to a Russian presidential human-rights body.
The United States has criticized Russia for tying political disagreements between the two countries with the future of orphaned children.
“Since 1992, American families have welcomed more than 60,000 Russian children into their homes,” Ventrell said. “The welfare of children is simply too important to tie to the political aspects of our relationship.”
More than 50 Russian children already approved for adoption in the United States must now be taken in by Russian families under the supervision of regional governors, Interfax reported, citing Pavel Astakhov, Russia’s ombudsman for children’s rights.
Putin also signed a separate presidential decree Friday allocating state support for orphans, according to the Kremlin.
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