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Ministers disagree with lawmakers over adoption of Russian children by US citizens

December 19, 2012, 11:21 UTC+3

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov opposes the amendment, too

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The proposal to ban the adoption of Russian children by US citizens in response to the USA's approval of the "Magnitsky Act" caused controversy between parliamentarians and Cabinet officials. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Deputy Prime Minister for Social Issues Olga Golodets, Education Minister Dmitry Livanov and Minister for Open Government issues Mikhail Abyzov criticized the ban.

The bill on the measures of influence on the persons involved in violation of Russian citizens' rights was submitted on December 10 by house speaker Sergei Naryshkin and the leaders of all the parliament factions. They proposed to ban then entry into Russia and arrest the assets of the Americans who had violated Russians' rights, the Kommersant reminds.

The State Duma approved the 1st reading of the bill on December 14, and on December 17, the committee for constitutional legislation strengthened it with amendments, such as giving the Justice Ministry the right to suspend the operation of non-government organizations if they draw funds from U.S. citizens and participate in political activity. Also, it was proposed to introduce a ban on the Russians with US citizenship being members of these organizations or having executive jobs there. Lawmaker Yekaterina Lakhova /United Russia faction/ submitted an amendment banning the adoption of Russian children in the USA and shutting down the organizations in Russia which select children for adoptive parents.

Education Minister Dmitry Livanov was the first who objected to an eye for an eye logic, saying it might hurt children. On Tuesday, several ministers criticized the proposed measure. "When it concerns children, we should put their interests above all," Olga Golodets stated. "I think it's a mistake, if we view the issues of the protection of our children along with the retaliating sanctions for "the Magnitsky Act," Mikhail Abyzov told the Kommersant, "these issues should be reviewed separately, not in haste or unprofessionally."

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov opposes the amendment, too. "It is wrong, and I'm sure the State Duma will make a balanced decision eventually," he said.

The lawmakers reacted to the criticism angrily, and minister Livanov came under the harshest attack. "It’s not a scandal, but a normal public discussion," presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in comments on the situation.

"The Kremlin is closely watching the discussion, but will not make the president's position public yet. The newspaper reminds the Vladimir Putin, at a meeting of the council of legislators on December 13, supported the response, in its initial form, to the "Magnitsky Act." He warned that the retaliating measures should be adequate and reasonable.

Sergei Lavrov relays Vladimir Putin's opinion, political analyst Boris Makarenko believes, and the initiators of the amendments should be sensible enough to understand that the minister "has consulted" someone. However the overall process to adopt the document is unlikely to stop, he acknowledged.

Meanwhile, a campaign was launched on the Internet to gather signatures against Lakhova's amendment. More than 20,000 signatures were gathered on Tuesday evening. Their number is expected to reach 100,000. The Kommersant reminds that Vladimir Putin, in his annual state-of-the-national address to the Federal Assembly, suggested "introducing the rule of mandatory review in parliament of the public initiatives that gather 100,000 or more signatures on the Internet."

Valery Panyushkin, a writer and activist of the Russian Assistance Foundation cites a list of nine children suffering from cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, myelocele and HIV who are waiting for permission to leave for the USA to join their adoptive parents, the Komsomolskaya Pravda notes.

If the bill is approved, their fate in their motherland will obviously be sad. Education and Science Minister Dmitry Livanov wrote on Twitter: "it's a sort of eye for eye logic, but this logic is wrong, as the children who have found no adoptive parent in Russia, may suffer."

The Kremlin does not rule out that the adoption ban show will be carried through, whereupon Vladimir Putin will stand for children, the RBK Daily writes. First vice-president of the Center for Political Technologies Alexei Markin believes that the bill might be softened in the end; the ban on adoption by US citizens might be withdrawn. "The bill was submitted on very strong emotions when the authorities really felt that they were discriminated against. Now there emerged the understanding that adoptionwise, the reaction turned out to be too inadequate to the U.S. moves," the expert noted.

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