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Russian lawmakers eye adoption ban to U.S.

By Madison Park, CNN
updated 12:30 PM EST, Thu December 27, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Russia lawmakers consider a ban of Russian children adoptions to the U.S.
  • In recent decade, adoptions from Russia came second to China
  • Russian leaders are critical of new U.S. law that penalizes officials tied to lawyer's death

Read a version of this story in Arabic.

(CNN) -- Russian lawmakers could move to ban Americans from adopting children from the country -- which is one of the top sources of international adoptions to the United States.

A bill to block adoption to the United States passed the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, on its first reading last week and it will be considered again Wednesday for a crucial second reading, according to Russia's RIA Novosti news agency.

This could affect hundreds of American families seeking to adopt Russian children. From 1999 to 2011, 45,112 adoptions to the United States came from Russia, second to only China, according to the U.S. State Department statistics. However, the number of adoptions from Russia has waned in recent years after a peak in 2005.

United Russia, the majority party in the parliament backs the adoption ban, political leaders told Russian media.

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This move by Russian politicians is widely seen as retaliation to a recent law U.S. President Barack Obama signed on December 14, called the Magnitsky Act. This imposes U.S. travel and financial restrictions on human rights abusers in Russia.

The act is named after a Russian lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky who uncovered the largest tax fraud in the country's history in form of rebates claimed by government officials who stole money from the state. After Magnitsky died in a Moscow detention center in 2009, his name became the basis of Washington's list of Russian officials who were involved in the tax fraud and in the deceased lawyer's detention.

Russian leaders have criticized the passage of the Magnitsky Act and wrote new legislation that would impose restrictions that include banning U.S. citizens who've violated Russians' rights, freezing their assets and ending adoptions to the United States.

"It is prohibited to transfer children who are citizens of the Russian Federation, for adoption to the citizens of the United States, and to conduct in the Russian Federation activities of organizations for the purpose of selection and placement of children who are citizens of the Russian Federation, for adoption to the citizens of the United States of America wishing to adopt these children," the bill states.

If the bill passes, it would nullify a pre-existing agreement between the United States and Russia, in which the countries agreed to additional safeguards to protect children and parties involved in intercountry adoptions.

Backers of the bill say American adoptive parents have been abusive, citing 19 deaths of Russian children by their adoptive parents since the 1990s, according to local media.

In 2010, an American woman sent her adopted son back to Russia, claiming that the then-7-year-old boy had violent episodes that made the family fear for its safety.

Fareed Zakaria contributed to this report.

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