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Orphanages brim, but Russia thwarts foreign adoption

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Some Russian adoptees abused

Defenders of the government crackdown say it's about improving accountability and providing safeguards for Russian children who are adopted abroad. They cite claims that at least 14 Russian kids adopted in the US and Canada have died over the past decade, victims of parental abuse. Earlier this year a group of nationalist and Communist deputies attempted to pass a bill in the Duma – the lower house of parliament – to halt foreign adoptions, but failed to gain support from the pro-Kremlin majority.

"We wanted to pass a moratorium on international adoptions, but our colleagues at the foreign ministry told us it violated international practice," says Nina Ostanina, deputy head of the Duma's commission on family affairs. "What we want now is to obtain bilateral agreements with countries that will enable us to be able to follow the adopted child's life abroad. As of now, Russian embassy workers are denied such access."

Some critics believe that nationalist politicians may be using the adoption issue to embarrass Putin and push Russian politics in an anti-Western direction. "Very strong, very dangerous forces are behind this [campaign to end international adoptions]. They want a new Iron Curtain, a new Cold War," says Boris Altschuler, director of Children's Right, a Moscow-based NGO that monitors conditions for children. "It's very possible that all these bureaucratic obstacles are, at their roots, really political ones."

For the agencies, including many that have worked in Russia for more than a decade, the new rules come atop almost two years of escalating restrictions. In 2005, a forced reregistration of all foreign agencies caused a similar shutdown in adoptions, but the bottleneck magically disappeared after 7,000 American families waiting to adopt Russian children signed an open letter to President Vladimir Putin, which was published in the central newspaper Izvestia.

Are delays due to anti-Americanism?

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