MOSCOW – A law allowing Americans to adopt Russian children will remain valid for another year despite Moscow’s recent controversial decision to end the practice, the Kremlin said Thursday.
The adoption agreement signed by Russia and the United States in June will run until January 2014 because the agreement calls for it to remain active for a year after either of the parties chooses to end it, officials said.
“The agreement is active now,” said Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for President Vladimir Putin.
Russian officials said previously that the bill Putin signed late last month banning the adoption of Russian orphans by U.S. families would take effect this year. The law was believed to immediately jeopardize the adoptions of about 1,500 children whose cases were being processed in Russian courts.
But officials said the hundreds of adoptions already awaiting approval were expected to be completed, with the children going to U.S. families.
“The main thing is these kids will finally find loving families in the United States,” Leonid Kalashnikov, a deputy head of the Foreign Relations Commission of the State Duma, the lower house of the parliament, said in an interview.
The Russian measure, named after Dima Yakovlev, a Russian boy who died of heatstroke in 2008 after being left in a parked car by his adoptive American father, has been widely seen as retaliation for an anti-corruption measure recently passed by Congress and signed by President Obama.
The so-called Magnitsky law, named for Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer and whistle-blower who died in pretrial custody in Moscow in 2009, imposed visa restrictions and froze financial accounts on a group of Russian officials connected to the lawyer’s prosecution and death.
Kalashnikov, who did not vote in favor of the Russian legislation, said the Kremlin may realize it has gone too far in its zeal to retaliate against the U.S. He said he was hopeful that the Russian law would be amended, if not reversed.
There are at least 600,000 orphans in Russia. U.S. families have adopted more than 60,000 Russian orphans in the last two decades, adopting 1,000 to 3,000 a year. Russian families adopt about 7,000 children a year, but the need remains huge, experts say.
Russian officials have heard strong condemnation of their handling of the adoption issue, with some opposition and human rights groups calling the new measure “cannibalistic” and branding it “the law of the scoundrels.” After Putin signed the bill into law, critics began calling it “the law of Herod,” a reference to the biblical leader who ordered the massacre of infant boys in an attempt to kill young Jesus.
The Russian opposition is holding what it calls “a march against scoundrels” Sunday. They plan to carry portraits of the lawmakers and senators who supported the law and of Putin, some opposition leaders said on their websites.
“The anti-American pendulum in the Kremlin has recently swung too far to the side of the extreme and now we see the first attempts to curb that self-ruinous trend,” Andrei Kortunov, the president of the New Eurasia Foundation, a Moscow-based think tank, said in an interview.
“I can’t predict how far the Kremlin is ready to go to mend the situation," Kortunov said, "but there is at least some hope now that several hundred Russian orphans already chosen by U.S. families can finally join them and have a future.”