Moscow knocks U.S. for "silence" on dead Russian child

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 02, 2011 5:38 PM
Moscow knocks U.S. for "silence" on dead Russian child

By Jennifer Rankin

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The United States "inexcusably" failed to inform Moscow about the death of a Russian-born toddler adopted by an American couple, a Kremlin official said on Friday, highlighting tensions over an adoption accord the two countries signed in July.

Russia's children's rights commissioner Pavel Astakhov criticised U.S. authorities for not informing Russia that an American man had been acquitted of the murder of his Russian-born son.

In November a jury in U.S. state Iowa decided that Brian Dykstra was not guilty of second-degree murder following the death of his 21-month year old son Isaac in 2005, U.S. news reports said.

"The American authorities have only now informed us (of this case). For almost six years they were silent and said nothing. It is inexcusable," Astakhov told Reuters in an interview.

A U.S. official who did not wish to be named told Reuters on Friday they were preparing a response to Astakhov's remarks.

The adoption of tens of thousands of Russian children by foreigners since the collapse of the Soviet Union 20 years ago has been a touchy subject since Russia opened up to would-be Western parents.

Cases of abuse amongst Russian-born children in the United States have outraged both politicians and the public alike in Russia.

"Nineteen of our children have died," Astakhov said referring to all deaths of Russian-born children in the U.S. since 1991. "This situation is a permanent fiasco."

In August, Astakhov criticised the suspended sentence handed to an Alaskan mother seen on a U.S. television program after she punished her seven-year old son by making him swallow spicy sauce and stand in a cold shower.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has spoken out against a Tennessee woman who abandoned her adopted son and put him on a plane alone back to Russia last year.

Around 371,700 children were living in Russian state institutions in 2009, according to the Moscow-based organization Right of the Child. The Russian government is now seeking to boost domestic adoption to care for orphans or abandoned children as an alternative to foreign adoption.

Astakhov, also a lawyer and TV personality, is seeking to strip a U.S. couple from Pennsylvania, the Cravers, of their parental rights after they were convicted of the involuntary manslaughter of their seven-year old son adopted from Russia.

He now wants to ensure the couple's adopted daughter, Dasha Skorobogatova and also from Russia, has no further contact with the couple, according to an official statement on the commissioner's website.

In July, Lavrov signed an agreement with his U.S. counterpart, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to tighten adoption rules, meaning only agencies authorized by the Russian government will be able to operate in the country, while monitoring of families after adoption will be stepped up.

The Russian Duma, the lower house of parliament, must now ratify the agreement before it comes into force.

"American officials must inform us of every case when a Russian citizen dies," Astakhov said.

(Editing by Jon Hemming)