The U.S. ambassador to Russia has spoken out against “sensational exploitations” of the death of a Russian boy adopted by an American family.
For the past week, Russian officials and lawmakers have been claiming that 3-year-old Max Shatto, known in Russia as Maksim Kuzmin, was killed by his adoptive mother in Texas on January 21.
In a blog post published on his twitter account on February 22, Ambassador Michael McFaul said “It is time for sensational exploitations of human tragedy to end and for professional work between our two countries to grow.”
McFaul said he was “troubled” by the “inaccurate” portrayal of Americans and their values in the Russian media.
He said U.S. authorities were conducting a “thorough investigation” and urged people not to jump to conclusions that the boy had been killed.
He wrote, “One is innocent until proven guilty.”
Shatto’s death has reignited tensions over Russian adoptions following Moscow’s controversial decision in December to ban all adoptions to the United States, citing cases of ill-treatment by American parents.
The country’s children’s ombudsman, Pavel Astakhov, said earlier this week that the boy had been “murdered” and fed powerful drugs by his adoptive mother.
Russia’s Investigative Committee has vowed to take “all the necessary measures” to ensure those responsible for the boy’s death receive “the most severe punishment.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry are expected to discuss the case at a meeting next week.
Also on February 22, State Duma deputies penned a draft resolution to the U.S. Congress condemning “violence” by Max Shatto’s adoptive parents.
Irina Yarovaya, chairwoman of the Duma’s Security Committee and a member of the ruling United Russia party, accused U.S. authorities of a cover up.
“When they are unable to conduct a basic examination to determine the cause of death for a whole month, you don’t have to be a lawyer to understand that behind it is a desire to conceal the real cause of the child’s death,” she said.
Lawmakers called for the return of the boy’s half-brother Kirill, who was also adopted by the Shatto family.
Drunk And Unruly Birth Mother
The boys’ biological mother, Yulia Kuzmina, has appeared on state-controlled television, saying she wants to reclaim Kirill.
She lost custody of both her sons because of negligence and serious drinking problems.
Hours after she gave an emotional television interview on February 21, Kuzmina was pulled off a train for being drunk and unruly.
Transport police spokesman Nikolai Stepanenko confirmed the incident in a telephone interview with local television in the city of Pskov.
“This individual, [Yulia] Kuzmina, was taken off the train from Moscow to Pskov on the orders of the train crew chief for indecent behavior,” he said. “She was drunk and crew members received complaints from passengers about her. Then they wrote up a report, took her off the train, and brought administrative charges against her.”
In her interview on a Russian TV talk show, Kuzmina said she and her partner now have jobs and a house and would be able to give her son Kirill a better life.