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Death of Russian-born boy in US reignites adoption debate

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"This death raises many questions," Mr. Astakhov wrote on his blog, according to Russian media. "Either the boy was being punished [and for that reason was stuck in the basement during the fire] or he was neglected and got into the basement accidentally. Why the boy was locked in the basement and why he could not get out is something we will ask the US attorneys."

The US Embassy in Moscow was quick to point out in a statement that, since Anton was adopted in the US, this is not a case of international adoption. "The Department of State has no official role in this case," it said, adding that it is ready to "provide Russian officials with all available information and help them liaise with the Nebraska authorities."

Advocates: Russia needs to clean up at home first 

Adoptions of Russian children by American families have steadily decreased, from almost 4,000 in 2005 to 1,079 in 2010. The number of institutionalized Russian orphans has declined sharply since then-President Vladimir Putin ordered measures taken to boost adoptions and fund foster families in 2006.

Boris Altschuler, head of the independent Center for Children's Rights in Moscow, says conditions have improved markedly since then, although the lack of professional support services for foster families has led to many children being returned to institutions.

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