WASHINGTON – In a continuing escalation of tension between Russia and the U.S., Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that he plans to sign a new measure into law that starting on Jan. 1, 2013 would ban Americans from adopting children from the Russian Federation.
The measure came on the heels of the U.S. Congress passing the Magnitsky Act, which sets economic and travel sanctions against Russians suspected of human rights abuses in the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. Many on both sides of the Atlantic say that the adoption ban is in retaliation to the Magnitsky Act.
The lower and upper houses of Russia's Parliament have already passed the measure and goes to Putin to sign the measure into law.
In addition, many Russian lawmakers say that there have been too many cases of child abuse - 19 of them leading to death - of Russian children adopted by American families.
Voice of Russia correspondent Kim Palchikoff talked with attorney Larry Crain, who represented Artyom Savelyev, an abused Russian 7-year-old whose American adoptive mother sent him back to Moscow alone after deciding she didn't want him anymore, about many of these issues.
7-year-old Artyom Savelyev was adopted from Russia by Torry Ann Hansen of Shelbyville, Tennessee in the spring of 2010, not even two years ago. Some time later he was put on a flight from Washington to Moscow alone with a note indicating that he was difficult, possibly mentally ill and that the Russian orphanages had lied about his problems. What his adopted mother did, essentially returning the boy she has once wanted like the unwanted Christmas present, stirred an international outcry, especially in Russia, where the news got daily coverage and was considered an outrage by the President himself. Today the U.S. and Russia are back to the drawing board as far as the adoption of Russian children go. The Russian lawyer and Upper House of Parliament have both voted to ban Russian orphans from being adopted by Americans. Whether or not Putin will sign the bill is another story. Joining me today is Larry Crain, the attorney of the little boy in the case in Tennessee.
When you hear the news today, what comes to your mind?
It’s disappointing. The mother who did this act was ordered to pay damages and child support at about 250,000$. If anything, there was a hope that it would show the authorities there in Russia that this kind of behavior is certainly not being tolerated. There was a hope to begin restoring relations between the U.S. and Russia.
I talked to a friend yesterday who is Lower House of Parliament. And I can tell you, they’re very upset about this adoption law, there’re not sure that this is a good thing for Russian children and this is seen as a response to the law that the U.S. recently passed which was the Magnitsky bill – nothing to do with children or adoption. Do you think there’s enough going on in the U.S. in terms of protecting the kids? What was wrong with the woman?
I think what was wrong here was that the mother was extremely devious in a way she misled the social worker that everything was fine. There was never an indication of any problem. They could have been helped. And the children are the ones who are going to suffer here. It’s sad that the U.S. and Russia cannot get together. To use adoption law as means of retaliation is such a rascality, when there’re literally hundreds of families in the U.S. that want to have their adoptions.
Why would anybody go to that effort, bring the child back and then abuse them?
It’s an interesting question. The irony here is that this particular mother had made in inquiry to adopt yet a second child, while this one was with her. Unfortunately, the adoption agency discouraged her. It makes no sense, because it’s an investment of not only finance, but your personal life into all that you must do to qualify and bring the child back to the States. We never really got a clear picture of why she suddenly fell out of love with a child.
Are there ways to legally protect a child better?
I think what I would do – I would change recommended adoption agreement altogether, such that the mother could without penalty surrender the child here in the U.S. for re-adoption, if it gets to the point where she’s incapable of caring for a child. The mother, apparently, didn’t go that route here. Why she decided to put him on a plane and send him back is beyond anyone’s understand. Perhaps she thought it was the easiest way.
There was another case in Florida, Larry, with another Russian adopted child, Maxim Babaev. His parents were accused of abuse. The parents pleaded guilty and they plea bargained, they didn’t get any jail-time, but did get probation. The child was placed in foster care in America. And it’s forbidden for the parents to see him. The Russians seem to have really hard time understanding that some of these parents are not getting jail-time.
I think it’s a legitimate concern. We experience similar indifference on the part of law enforcement in the Hansen case. We ran into a stone wall trying to convince criminal authorities that they should investigate this case.
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