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International adoption: What does Russia want for lifting US adoption ban?

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Some 3,000 U.S. applications for adopting Russian children are now in limbo, according to the Joint Council on International Children's Services, which represents many US agencies engaged in international adoption. The group has posted an online petition, already signed by over 25,000 people, asking both US and Russian leaders to move swiftly to end the logjam.

In a statement, the US embassy in Russia said it has not been officially informed of a freeze, "but it appears that the recent controversy has slowed the process down."

Next week's talks will hopefully "establish the basis for a continuation of the adoption process in a way that assures the welfare of Russian children adopted in the United States," it said. But nobody seems to know what precise demands the Russians will make when the US delegation, headed by Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Michael Kirby, arrives for the consultations in Moscow.

Aside from the insistence that such a deal be formalized, the Foreign Ministry has declined to spell out what Russia actually wants, beyond "effective mechanisms for control over the living conditions of adopted children from Russia and to provide for their reliable legal protection... "

Some experts say there is little that could be added to the already rigorous process carried out by registered international adoption agencies in Russia, which have undergone repeated checks by the Ministry of Science and Education, which oversees adoptions, in recent years.

"It's hard to see any concrete demands on the Russian side," says Alyona Senkevich, Russia coordinator of the Tuscon, Ariz., Hand-in-Hand adoption agency. "It seems mostly rhetorical, ie. 'to guarantee the safety of our children'."

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