Russian President Vladimir Putin [official website, in Russian; JURIST news archive] signed into law Friday 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. Putin signaled his intent [JURIST report] to sign the bill yesterday. The bill is widely viewed as retaliation against US legislation [WP report] aimed at corrupt Russian officials and signed into law earlier this month. The Russian adoption law is known as the Yakovlev initiative, after US-adopted Russian toddler Dima Yakolev, who died in Virginia in 2008. The US State Department released a statement [text] denouncing the law.
The Russian government’s politically motivated decision will reduce adoption possibilities for children who are now under institutional care. We regret that the Russian government has taken this step rather than seek to implement the bilateral adoption agreement that entered into force in November. We are further concerned about statements that adoptions already underway may be stopped and hope that the Russian government would allow those children who have already met and bonded with their future parents to finish the necessary legal procedures so that they can join their families.The law will come into force on January 1 [Interfax report, in Russian], ending any adoptions by US parents that have not concluded by that date. Human Rights Commissioner of Russia Vladimir Lukin [official profiles] suggested he may challenge the law in the constitutional court.
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.