WASHINGTON, March 28 (By Carl Schreck for RIA Novosti) – Russia has asked the US State Department to look into the circumstances surrounding a teenage Russian adoptee who says he returned to his country of birth after being kicked out of the house by the American couple that adopted him, the Russian Embassy in Washington said Thursday.
Joshua Alexander Salotti, 18, was living on the streets for several months in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, due to a conflict with his adoptive parents before deciding to return to Cheboksary, the Volga River city where he was born, according to members of his American family and interviews he gave to Russian media this week.
Salotti, who was born Alexander Abnosov, was adopted by Stephen and Jacqueline Salotti when he was 13 years old, according to Russian media reports.
“We have requested information about this case from the State Department,” a Russian Embassy spokesman in Washington told RIA Novosti on Thursday.
The Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow issued a statement Thursday saying that its diplomats in the United States were looking into whether Salotti was abused by his adoptive family and that it “presumes US law enforcement authorities and social services will conduct an appropriate investigation into this case.”
A State Department spokeswoman could not immediately confirm Thursday whether the request for information from the Russian embassy had been received. She said, however, that the State Department does not typically discuss diplomatic communications.
The incident comes amid heightened tensions between the United States and Russia over international adoptions. In January, Moscow banned Americans from adopting Russian children as part of legislation passed shortly after Washington adopted the so-called Magnitsky Act, which introduced sanctions against Russian officials suspected of human rights abuses.
A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said the Magnitsky Act had triggered the adoption ban, but Russian officials also cite the deaths of 20 Russian adoptees in the United States during the past two decades as a driving factor in Moscow’s push for the ban.
Salotti’s adjustment to his new life in Pennsylvania was by all accounts turbulent, according to members of Salotti’s adoptive family and Salotti himself.
In interviews with Russian television this week, Salotti said he quarreled often with his adoptive mother and that she had struck him once.
“She would nag me for no reason whatsoever and wouldn’t let up,” he told Russia’s state-run Rossiya-24 television.
When his parents kicked him out of the house late last year, he had already turned 18. He said he lived on the streets for about three months before his adoptive father bought him a plane ticket to Russia.
“We slept in trailers, in cars, in drainpipes, wherever we could,” he told Rossia-24. “We slept wherever it was warm.”
The Salottis did not respond to repeated requests for comment this week.
A member of Salotti’s adoptive family told RIA Novosti on Thursday, however, that the couple had simply refused to allow their adopted son’s friend, Ben, to live at their house. A conflict with his parents ensued, and Salotti and Ben lived briefly in a shelter but were eventually kicked out, the relative said on condition of anonymity.
The Salottis adopted Joshua and another Russian boy, Sam Salotti, after meeting them through their church five or six years ago, the relative said.
“They fell in love with them,” the relative said. “They felt like they had a calling. Something told them that they should help these kids.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer tracked down Sam Salotti, 19, this week at a neighbor’s house, where he had been staying. He said his brother refused to abide by his mother’s rules.
“It got to the point, my mom said, ‘Get out of the house,’” the newspaper cited Sam Salotti as saying.
The relative described Jacqueline Salotti as a strict but loving mother who broke down after her adopted son returned to Russia.
“She felt she had failed, as if she didn’t do enough for him, as if she had lost a son,” the family member told RIA Novosti.
Both of the adopted boys had been in trouble for stealing in the past, the relative said.
Stephen Salotti drove his adopted son to New York City to fly back to Russia, the family member said. The young man arrived in Russia in December, the Russian daily newspaper Kommersant reported.
Russian state television reported that Joshua Salotti had opted to stick with his adopted name instead of his birth name when obtaining his new Russian passport.