The Cable

State Department: Putin playing politics with kids’ lives

Russian President Vladimir Putin is punishing Russian orphans to spite the United States, a top State Department spokesman said Thursday.

Putin pledged Thursday to sign a bill barring Americans from adopting Russian children after the upper house of the Russian parliament passed the legislation unanimously. The bill is being seen as retaliation for a new U.S. law that punishes Russian human rights violators by restricting their access to visas and their ability to do business in the United States.

That bill, the Sergei Magnitsky Accountability and Rule of Law Act of 2012, was named after the Russian anti-corruption lawyer who died in prison, allegedly after being tortured by Russian officials.

State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said Thursday that the Russian bill would needlessly result in the suffering of the most vulnerable Russian orphans, who bear no responsibility for the political feud between Moscow and Washington.

"We have repeatedly made clear, both in private and in public, our deep concerns about the bill passed by the Russian parliament that, if signed by President Putin, would halt intra-country adoptions between the United States and Russia. Since 1992 American families have welcomed more than 60,000 Russian children into their homes, and it is misguided to link the fate of children to unrelated political considerations," Ventrell said. "The welfare of children is simply too important to tie to the political aspects of our relationship."

CBS News reported Thursday that 100,000 Russians have signed a petition against the legislation, which would block dozens of Russian children who are near the end of the adoption process from traveling to America and effectively end the flow of adoptees, tens of thousands of whom have been taken in by American families over the last 20 years.

"The bill is named in honor of Dima Yakovlev, a Russian toddler who was adopted by Americans and then died in 2008 after his father left him in a car in broiling heat for hours. The father was found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter," CBS reported.

The State Department also criticized sections of the bill that would further restrict Russian civil society organizations from working with American partners. Harsh reporting restrictions and the threat of treason charges for Russians working with international NGOs have compelled several aid organizations to flee Russia in recent months.

"The decades of cooperation between Russian and American NGOs have been beneficial to both our countries and our citizens," Ventrell said. "We have also been clear that our interaction with Russian civil society has always been nonpartisan and transparent."

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