Russian President Vladimir Putin announced today he intends to sign a bill that bans Americans from adopting his country’s orphans.
The legislation, passed by the Russian Parliament last week, is part of a political effort to punish the United States for approving sanctions against Russian leaders accused of human rights violations. During a televised meeting on Thursday, Putin said he saw no reason not to sign the bill.
If the measure becomes law, it will halt the adoptions of 46 children who were anticipating new homes in the United States, according to figures released by Pavel Astakhov, Russia’s children’s rights ombudsman.
UNICEF estimates 740,000 children are not in parental custody in Russia. Government officials say they would like more Russian families to consider adoption. But right now, only 18,000 Russians are waiting to adopt a child.
Most of Russia’s adopted children go to the United States—60,000 in the last 20 years.
Although lawmakers approved the measure in retaliation for U.S. sanctions, Astakhov said he would like to expand the ban to other countries. Russian opposition leaders and children’s rights activists denounced the bill for using children as political pawns.
But the Russian government has tried to use state-run media to whip up support for the measure. A Kremlin-backed campaign accuses U.S. parents and adoption agencies of bribing their way into the country to take children. Lawmakers added their own fantastical claims to the hysterical debate, saying Russian children are used for organ transplants, as sex slaves, or as cannon fodder for the U.S. Army. A spokesman for Russia’s Orthodox Church said children adopted by foreigners and raised outside the church would not “enter God’s kingdom.”
The U.S. State Department has said only that it regret’s the Russian Parliament’s decision to pass the bill.
U.S. lawmakers approved sanctions against Russians accused of violating human rights after lawyer Sergei Magnitsky died in jail. He was accused of perpetrating a $230 million tax fraud. The Magnitsky Act prohibits officials allegedly involved in his death from entering the United States.
The bill banning U.S. adoptions is named for Dima Yakovlev, a Russian toddler who died after his adoptive father left him in a hot car for hours. A court found the father not guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
In voicing his support for the ban, Putin said American authorities routinely let parents suspected of violence toward Russian children go unpunished.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.