By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — The Russian parliament has overwhelmingly approved a bill that would ban U.S. citizens from adopting Russian children.
Only seven lawmakers in the 448-member State Duma voted against the bill. Ilya Ponomaryov, a State Duma deputy of the opposition A Just Russia party, was one of them.
“As I’ve said many times: I think this law is absolutely outrageous, amoral, and despicable,” Ponomaryov said.
The bill also calls for outlawing U.S.-funded “nonprofit organizations that engage in political activity.”
The measures were proposed in response to U.S. legislation that sanctions Russians allegedly involved in gross human rights abuses.
The Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act was signed into law last week by U.S. President Barack Obama. It is named after a whistle-blowing Russian lawyer who was physically abused in prison and died in detention in 2009.
To become law, the Russian measures still must pass the upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, before going to the president for his signature.
The Federation Council is expected to review the bill on December 26.
Commenting on the Duma’s initial approval of the adoption ban, President Vladimir Putin said on December 20 that the Duma’s decision was an “emotional but adequate response” to the U.S. law.
Putin added that he had see the exact language of the Russian bill before he reached a final conclusion.
Speaking at a televised news conference, the Russian president also said that “the vast majority of Russian Federation citizens have a negative attitude toward the adoption of our children by foreigners.”
However, earlier this week Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said banning Americans from adopting Russian children would be “wrong.”
A petition against the bill, signed by 100,000 people, was filed with the Duma on December 21 but failed to deter the vote.
Russian news agencies quoted Russian presidential ombudsman on children’s rights Pavel Astankhov as saying the children whose adoption by U.S. nationals has already been approved in Russia should go to their adoptive families in the United States.
Critics of the bill warn it would seriously affect the adoption of disabled children, who they say, are frequently accepted by foreigners.
Some Russian lawmakers unofficially refer to it as the Dima Yakovlev bill.
He was a 21-month-old Russian boy who died of heatstroke in July 2008 after his adoptive American father accidently left him unattended in a car for nine hours.
The father was later found innocent of involuntary manslaughter, sparking an outcry in Russia.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said the United States was “concerned” by the Duma’s move.
“What’s particularly concerning here is in this present legislation, what this would do is prevent children from growing up in a family environment of happiness, love, and understanding,” Ventrell said.
“That’s the basic premise of our bilateral adoption agreement, it’s something we’ve worked for many months with the Russians on, and so really it’s Russian children who would be harmed by this measure.”
He added, “The welfare of children is simply too important to be linked to political aspects of our relationship.”
According to the State Department, U.S. families have adopted more than 60,000 Russian children over the past two decades.