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Russian-US agreement on cooperation on child adoptions lapses

January 02, 2014, 0:10 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Moscow sees no real steps by the United States to resolve problems associated with the adoption of Russian children by Americans, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier

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MOSCOW, January 01, /ITAR-TASS/. The agreement between Russia and the United States on cooperation in the field of adoptions officially lapsed.

The agreement was signed after a series of tragic incidents involving Russian children adopted by American families or serious infringements of their rights. However little has changed since then.

Moscow sees no real steps by the United States to resolve problems associated with the adoption of Russian children by Americans, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier.

“The American side recognises the need to set things in order in the adoption process, but we have not seen any real results so far,” Lavrov said.

“When resounding incidents occurred with our young citizens, we conducted a survey to study the situation with adoptions in the U.S., not only with regard to Russian children but also children from other countries and the U.S. itself. We got a very sad picture. By the number of adoption violations and per capita acts of violence against children, and this can be expressed in figures, this is perhaps an absolute record,” the minister said.

Russia also studied reports released by American human rights organisations which “are ringing the alarm because adoptions in the U.S. can and often are dangerous for the health of adopted children,” Lavrov said.

A year ago, Russia adopted the so-called Dima Yakovlev Law and it became effective. It defines sanctions against U.S. citizens involved in violations of the human rights and freedoms of Russian citizens. It creates a list of citizens who are banned from entering Russia, and also allows the government to freeze their assets and investments. The law suspends the activity of politically active non-profit organisations which receive money from American citizens or organisations. It also bans citizens of the United States from adopting children from Russia. The law was signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin on December 28, 2012 and took effect on January 1, 2013. The law is informally named after a Russian orphan adopted by a family from Purcellville, Virginia, who died of heat stroke after being left in a parked car for nine hours.

Following the enactment of the law, Moscow notified Washington of its intention to terminate the agreement on cooperation in the field of adoptions.

The Russian Foreign Ministry’s commissioner for human rights, democracy and the rule of law Konstantin Dolgov told ITAR-TASS that “the motives for Russia’s decision are obvious: the Americans did not and do not fulfill their obligations under this agreement.”

“There are very many questions” concerning the receipt of ample information about the investigation of gross abuses of the adopted Russian children and their rights in the United States, including their deaths, he said.

“We still do not receive complete information and the majority of inquiries made by the Russian Investigative Committee remain unanswered or practically unanswered,” Dolgov said.

There are also problems with consular access to the adopted Russian children who have been abused by their adoptive parents.

Some time ago, there appeared reports about a so-called Internet exchange for adopted children. At least 26 of them were exchanged or re-adopted by other families without the knowledge of the relevant American authorities.

“Unfortunately, the U.S. administration and the State Department have so far not decided how to punish those responsible or whether they can be punished at all. We have not received information on our children and their addresses despite our official request to the American authorities,” Dolgov said.

Russia has not been granted access to the private children’s home Ranch for Kids in Montana where under-age Russian children may be staying. “The conditions of their stay there are not clear. We have received repeated alarming calls from there, including from the local authorities,” Dolgov said.

Another unsolved question is the creation of a databank for all Russian children adopted in the U.S. since 1991. “This work has just begun and is far from completion. We hope for more active assistance from the American administration,” the commissioner said.

He said, however, that the dialogue was going on even though not without difficulty. For example, no American delegation came to Moscow for consultations on these matters. “Now Pavel Astakhov, the Russian president’s ombudsman for children’s rights, and I will most likely go to the U.S. in February,” Dolgov said and expressed hope that “our American partners will receive us for further dialogue.”

“We will use all available bilateral and multilateral diplomatic and legal mechanisms to ensure the rights of Russian children adopted in the U.S., including the bilateral Consular Convention that requires consular access to our citizens irrespective of the fact that the agreement [on cooperation in the field of adoptions] stops being effective from January 1 [2014],” Dolgov said.

He recalled that the U.S. authorities had repeatedly assured Moscow both in writing and verbally that they would pay priority attention to these issues. “We shall see whether this will be followed by any practical steps,” Dolgov added.

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