WASHINGTON, December 27 (RIA Novosti) – A group of Russian nationals with a petition to Russian President Vladimir Putin not to sign a controversial bill banning US adoptions of Russian children were denied entry to the premises of the Russian Embassy in Washington as embassy staff had not been informed of the event, a spokesman for the embassy said on Thursday.
Earlier a group of people including Russian-born three times Paralympic champion Tatyana McFadden, gathered in front of the Russian Embassy to hand the petition to the Russian ambassador. The group was denied entry, but an embassy diplomat took their petition.
“Fourteen people accompanied by cameras came to the embassy at 2:59 p.m. It was unclear why this obscure group arrived. When a sanctioned picket takes place, Americans who ensure guard of the embassy inform us, and there is always a police detail there,” Russian Embassy spokesman Yevgeny Khorishko said.
“This time, no one informed us of any picket. We received no notifications either from Americans or from them. So in line with the instructions we have, we informed Americans that this group of people gathered at the entrance to the embassy,” Khorishko said.
“They said they want to hand the petition to Vladimir Putin. A senior diplomat went out, spoke to them with due respect, took the petition and returned to the embassy. At 3:22 p.m., they turned round and calmly, with no comments or statements, or any emotions, went away,” Khorishko said.
“To sum it up, there was no prior notification that any petition or a request would be submitted to the embassy,” he said, adding that the petition was sent to Moscow three hours later.
According to the Fontanka.ru news website, Tatyana McFadden said the US-Russian adoption pact, in line with which she had been adopted by American Deborah McFadden, changed her life forever, and added she regretted very much that now the pact may be severed.
Putin said on Thursday he plans to sign into law a controversial bill banning US nationals from adopting Russian children.
“I already received this draft law today from the Federation Council. I have not seen any reason why I should not sign it, although I have to consider the final version and think everything over,” Putin said at a meeting of the State Council, a presidential advisory body.
The president said he also intends to sign a decree to provide support to orphans and children in Russia with serious health conditions. Putin also said that the US authorities have not provided access for inspectors to check on the condition of adopted children.
Should Putin sign the bill, the law will come into force on January 1, 2013, halting the adoption of 46 Russian children by US families whose cases are currently being processed, Russia’s ombudsman for child rights, Pavel Astakhov, said on Wednesday.
A number of Russian ministers, including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, have criticized the bill, which was approved by the State Duma – the lower house of parliament – on December 21 and by the Federation Council – the upper house – on Wednesday.
The proposed ban is part of Russia’s response to the US Magnitsky Act, which was signed into law by US President Barack Obama earlier this month. The act introduces sanctions against Russian officials suspected of human rights abuses and is named after Sergei Magnitsky, a whistleblowing lawyer who died in a Moscow pre-trial detention center in 2009.
The adoption ban under consideration in Moscow is named after a two-year-old Russian boy, Dima Yakovlev, who died in 2008 in the US after being left in a car in hot weather by his adoptive father. The father was later acquitted of manslaughter.
Yakovlev was one of 19 Russian children to have died at the hands of their US adoptive parents since 1999, according to Russian officials. Some 45,000 Russian children have been adopted by US citizens in that time, according to the US State Department.
The Russian public has been largely supportive of the bill, with 56 percent of respondents in an opinion poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation (FOM) saying they backed a ban on US nationals adopting Russian children.
But opponents of the bill accuse MPs of using orphans as political pawns, and the opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta has collected over 100,000 signatures in an online petition against the ban. The head of the Kremlin’s council on human rights said last week that he supported the ban, but also called for a reform of the adoption system to allow Russians to more easily adopt Russian children.
Experts have said the bill, if adopted, would harm Russia’s international image.
While the adoption ban is the most controversial aspect of the proposed legislation, the bill puts forward other retaliatory measures as well, such as banning alleged US abusers of Russian citizens’ rights from entering Russia and freezing any assets they may have there.