Monday, January 14, 2013

Russians March Against US Adoption Ban

While I am happy that so many individual Russians realize that
the US Adoption ban is a bad thing for the hundreds of thousands
of children in Russian orphanages, I am sad that Russia is once
again a country where leaders make all the decisions independent
of what the population wants and needs.

As this article states: Nearly 130,000 children were eligible for
adoption in the country as of late December, according to
official figures. In 2011, that number was 82,000,while just
7,400 were adopted by Russian nationals that year

MOSCOW, January 13 (Marc Bennetts, RIA Novosti) - Thousands of
people braved freezing temperatures in Moscow on Sunday afternoon
to protest a government ban on adoptions of Russian children by
US nationals, as well as to call for the dissolution of
parliament, which initiated the legislation.

"Hands off the children!" chanted protesters as they streamed
through boulevards a short distance from the Kremlin, while a
police helicopter hovered above. Some protesters carried placards
portraying lawmakers who voted for the ban to a waiting dumpster.

Protest organizers said some 50,000 people had attended the
march, while police put the figure at just 9,500. Nine people
were detained at the rally for "breaking laws governing
participation in mass events," police said.

"It's disgusting that our politicians are using children as
political pawns," said protester Tatiana Shilova, a 45-year-old
real estate agent. "I refuse to recognize a parliament that would
do such a thing."

Opponents of the ban say it effectively condemns Russian children
in state care to lives of misery in what they say are underfunded
and sometimes brutal institutions, referred to in Russian as
"children's homes."Nearly 130,000 children were eligible for
adoption in the country as of late December, according to
official figures. In 2011, that number was 82,000,while just
7,400 were adopted by Russian nationals that year.

"I've never come out to a protest before, but this law is the
last straw," Shilova added.

A host of famous Russian actors and writers spoke out against the
law in the run-up to the march, urging people to take to the

"If we remain indifferent to this…we are accomplices. It's as
simple as that," writer Viktor Shenderovich said in a video
address uploaded to social networks.

"Just imagine, there are some sick children, without moms or
dads, living in terrible children's homes," said Tatyana
Dogileva, an actress, in another video address.

"Their parents have already come to see them, from America, and
said, 'We are your mom and dad.' They've already shown them the
house where they will live," she went on. "And then the
politicians play their dirty, awful games."

The adoption ban, which came into force January 1, is part of
Russia's wider response to the United States' so-called "" target=
"_blank">Magnitsky Act
, which introduces sanctions against
Russian officials suspected of involvement in human rights
abuses. The US law - which the Kremlin called a "purely
political, unfriendly act" - was named after Sergei Magnitsky, a
whistleblowing lawyer who died under disputed circumstances in a
Moscow pre-trial detention center in 2009.

The ban will affect almost all of the children - some with
serious illnesses - now at various stages of the adoption process
by US families, which the US State Department estimated last week
at 500-1,000.

Over 60,000 Russian children have been adopted by American
families in the last 20 years, including around 1,000 in 2011,
according to US State Department figures. In introducing the
controversial ban late last year, Russian lawmakers cited the
deaths of 19 of those children, since 1999, at the hands of their
US adoptive parents and President Vladimir Putin signed the bill
into law just before the New Year.

The ban has split public opinion in Russia and provoked rare open
criticism from government figures, with even Foreign Minister
Sergei Lavrov speaking out against it.

Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told the online TV channel
Dozhd on Sunday that he understood that people were concerned by
the law, but said it was aimed at creating the "necessary
conditions" to improve Russian orphanages and allow more Russian
families to adopt. But he also called criticized calls for the
dissolution of the two houses of parliament as "disrespectful."

A top lawmaker from the ruling United Russia party, Andrei
Isayev, appeared to threaten protesters on the eve of the rally.

"Let's look attentively and remember the faces of the organizers
and active participants of this rally," he wrote on his party's
official website. "Our task in the years to come is to drive them
to the farthest corners of political and public life, to the
middle of nowhere." Isayev also dubbed the protesters

Some 56 percent of Russians indicated they are in favor of the
ban in a poll released by the Public Opinion Fund in late
December. But Putin's decision to approve what he called an
"adequate" response to the Magnitsky Act has also further
highlighted the divide between the authorities and the urban,
educated class that has formed the backbone of the ongoing
protests against his 13-year rule as president and prime

While most high-profile figures in the protest movement stayed
out of the limelight on Sunday, leaving the organization to civil
activists, protesters combined calls for a repeal of the adoption
ban with chants such as "Putin is a thief."

Sergei Udaltsov, the leftist leader facing jail on charges of
plotting to overthrow Putin, was the sole well-known opposition
figure to play a leading role in Sunday's rally.

Udaltsov's Left Front movement was just one of a number of
leftist and nationalist movements to put aside their anti-US
rhetoric to participate in the demonstration.

"I am against capitalism and US foreign policies," Udaltsov said
at the rally. "But we are all united here against this terrible

The ban was overwhelmingly approved by Russia's lower house of
parliament, the State Duma, and unanimously by its upper house,
the Federation Council, in voting in December.

Yekaterina Lakhova, the United Russia lawmaker who sponsored the
ban, said she had paid a visit to the rally to see for herself
the people opposed to the law, but left early due to the cold.

"These people…are always disgruntled about something," she told

Much smaller marches against the ban also took place in a number
of other Russian cities.

Updated with correct number of children eligible for adoption.

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