Russian President Vladimir Putin [official website, in Russian; JURIST news archive] announced Thursday that he intends to sign a recently passed bill that would prohibit United States citizens from adopting Russian children. The legislation was unanimously passed this week [JURIST report] by the Council of Federation [official website], the upper house of the Russian parliament, after passing the lower house by a vote of 420 to 7. The bill is widely viewed as retaliation against US legislation [WP report] aimed at corrupt Russian officials and signed into law earlier this month. In response to the Russian bill's passage the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) [official website] urged the Russian government to act only in the best interest of the children [press release] affected by such a measure:
We encourage the government to establish a robust national social protection plan to help strengthen Russian families. Alternatives to the institutionalization of children are essential, including permanent foster care, domestic adoption and inter-country adoption ... All children deserve an environment that promotes their protection and well-being. Russian children—indeed all children—need to be in protective and loving families or family-like environments.The Russian adoption law is known as the Yakovlev initiative, after US-adopted Russian toddler Dima Yakolev, who died in Virginia in 2008. It will still allow Russian children to be taken to the US by relatives.
The Russian Legal Information Agency (RAPSI) [official website], a legal information agency which operates in coordination with Russian courts, reports the Yakovlev initiative was adopted in retaliation [RAPSI report] against the US Magnitsky Act [text]. The new US legislation places financial and visa sanctions on officials connected to the arrest, imprisonment and death of Sergei Magnitsky [BBC report], a lawyer and whistleblower who unearthed a US$230 million tax fraud, and was subsequently arrested by the police officers he accused of carrying out the fraud. Magnitsky died in prison in 2009 [JURIST report]. The Yakovlev initiative comes just months after Russia and the US entered into an agreement [JURIST report] tightening restrictions on international adoptions.