MOSCOW (AP) — Russia's foreign minister on Tuesday strongly criticized a proposal in the country's parliament that would ban Americans from adopting Russian children.
Sergey Lavrov's comments — along with criticism of the proposal by other ministers — appeared to indicate pressure from the highest level for the State Duma to reject the proposal or eliminate it from discussion.
The proposal comes after President Barack Obama signed into law last week a bill that imposes sanctions on Russians who are deemed to be connected with human rights abuses.
A retaliatory measure that passed its first reading in the Russian Duma last week calls for establishing a blacklist of Americans judged to have violated the human rights of Russians. Officials had said that would include those who abuse adopted Russian children.
But some legislators then proposed that an amendment calling for an outright ban on adoptions of Russian children by Americans. Although news reports said the measure would come up for second reading on Wednesday, it was not clear late Tuesday what version of it would be on the agenda.
"It's not right, and I am sure that the State Duma will make the right decision in the end," Lavrov was quoted as saying by the state news agency ITAR-Tass. "International adoption as an institution has a full right to exist."
Russians have bristled at reports about the abuse of adopted Russian children. After long delay, an agreement on regulating adoptions was ratified by the Duma in July. The agreement was aimed at addressing concerns galvanized by the scandal over an American woman who in 2010 sent back a 7-year-old Russian boy she had adopted, saying he had behavioral problems and she didn't want him anymore.
But lawmaker Elena Afanasiyeva, a co-author of the proposed new amendment, said the new adoption deal has not eliminated serious problems, especially the poor U.S. communications with Russian authorities about cases of abuse by adoptive parents.
"Frequently, they hear about it from the mass media," she told ITAR-Tass.
Afanasiyeva also called sentences for abusive adoptive parents in the United States too light and said they were inconsistent from state to state.
The proposed law is named the Dima Yakovlev Bill, after a 21-month-old Russian boy who died after his American adoptive father left him alone in an automobile in the baking heat for hours. The father was acquitted of involuntary manslaughter.
Along with Lavrov, other high Russian officials have warned against an adoption ban.
"The logic is to be 'an eye for an eye,' but the logic is incorrect because it could harm our children who cannot find adopters in Russia," Education and Science Minister Dmitry Livanov commented on his Twitter account.
President Vladimir Putin's foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov refused to comment directly on the Russian amendment Tuesday but said "I understand the reaction of our lawmakers."
"What did the Americans hope for — did they hope we would just swallow it? It causes indignation," he said of the U.S. human rights law.
The U.S. law is named after Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who was arrested by the officials he accused of a $230 million tax fraud. He was repeatedly denied medical treatment and in 2009 died in jail. Russian rights groups have accused the Kremlin of failing to prosecute those responsible, and the officials that Magnitsky accused of fraud went on to be promoted.