In late 2012, the Russian government announced a ban on all adoptions of Russian children by American citizens. This is known as the Dima Yakolev law, which officially came into law on January 1, 2013. By late January, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow stated that the Russian Supreme Court ruled that adoptions legally finalized before January 1 would still be allowed to go through. In mid-January, the Fair Russia party submitted to the lower house a bill that could void the current adoptions ban, which had the support of over 100,000 in a public petition held. The Fair Russia proposal will go through the procedures in the State Duma, when in March it will be proposed and considered by lawmakers, although it is unlikely that it will be supported by the majority of them.
Although the Dima Yakolev law came weeks after the death of Max Shatto, a boy from Russia who was adopted by parents in Texas, it has become a primary source of controversy. Texas Child Protective Services spokesman, Patrick Crimmins, stated that they had received accusations of physical abuse and neglect, but that they have not yet determined whether the allegations were true. Russian Foreign Ministry official Konstantin Dolgov stated that, “the boy’s death was yet another case of inhuman treatment of a Russian child adopted by American parents.” Dolgov later accused the U.S. Department of State of not allowing Russian officials to further investigate the death of the adopted boy.
Russian attorney, Pavel Astakhov, tweeted, “Urgent! In the state of Texas, an adoptive mother killed a 3-year-old Russian child.” At a news convention, Mr. Astakhov stated, “Well, the presumption of innocence, you know how it is, sometimes becomes so rigid.” even though the boy’s mother, Laura Shatto, with her two adoptive fathers, Miles Harrison and Brian Dkystra, were acquitted of killing their toddler. Mr. Astakhov also stated, “Don’t present me as an American-hater. I am a fighter for the rights of Russian children. I am fighting with those who violate children’s rights. I am only saying that it’s a shame that Russia is giving away its children. America does not give away its children, does it?”
The adoption ban on United States parents from gaining custody of Russian children is not without its criticisms in Russia however. Opponents of the adoption ban argue that it victimizes children to make a political point. Anti-Kremlin opposition has had a prominent voice in advocating the reversal of this adoption ban and that Putin and his parliament have lost their moral right to run Russia. They have also been quoted as saying “Parliament duties to orphanages, Putin to an old people’s home” along with other anti-Putin fliers spouting sayings such as “For a Russia without Herod.”
It is currently up for debate whether or not Russia’s adoption ban was once based on legitimacy, or if it more simply addresses the resentment in Russia over more than 60,000 children who were adopted by Americans over the past 20 years. Documented cases of Russian adopted children dying or suffering by the works of American parents have been widely portrayed in Russia, whereas, only 19 have been confirmed dead. Sergei Udaltsov, who is a part of a group opposing the ban on the adoption of Russian children stated, “Yes, there are cases when they are abused and killed, but they are rare. Concrete measures should be taken to punish those responsible, but our government decided to act differently and to sacrifice children’s fates for its political ambitions.”