Why Russia Wants to Bar U.S. Adoptions
The Magnitsky Act, passed recently by the United States Senate, may have been of little interest to Americans, but its impact and aftermath in Russia has been tempestuous.
The act, put very briefly, bars Russians who are implicated in human-rights abuses from entering the United States, and freezes their American bank accounts. Its adoption was accompanied by furious and threatening statements from Russian officials. This week, in a retaliatory move, the Duma, Russia’s lower house, voted almost unanimously for further constraints on non-government organizations that have even the faintest connection to America. Another amendment in the same package introduced a flat ban on the adoption of Russian children by parents in the United States.
This piece of legislation, informally referred to as “anti-Magnitsky bill,” was promptly branded by critics as a “scoundrels’ law” (zakon podletsov remained the most popular hashtag on Russian Twitter earlier this week). It has divided Russian society in a manner unheard of in the past decade. Novaya Gazeta, a non-government newspaper, called for people to sign a petition against the amendment; in just a few days, over a hundred thousand people had signed. The outrage went far beyond the usual suspects—liberals and what can be vaguely described as the community of protesters. Some of the highest-ranking officials, such as the foreign minister and the speaker of the upper house, expressed their disagreement with, or at least doubts about, the ban on adoptions. Even the Russian Orthodox Church is split: Archpriest Dmitry Smirnov, in charge of the Church’s relations with the armed forces, expressed ardent support for the ban, while Bishop Panteleimon, in charge of the church’s charities, suggested that decisions having to do with children had been guided by “political opportunism.”
Some officials appeared to be split even within themselves. On Tuesday, the chairman of the President’s Council for Human Rights said that it was “unethical” to link a response to Magnitsky act to “sick Russian children.”