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December 20, 2012 1:33 pm
A law banning US families from adopting Russian children was an “adequate” response to Washington’s targeting of Russian human rights abusers, Vladimir Putin said on Thursday, while accusing the US of “medieval” treatment of detainees.
Russia’s president said the new Magnitsky Act – signed by Barack Obama last week and which includes a bill that blacklists a group of Russian officials accused of being behind the death of a lawyer – was “poisonous” to US-Russian relations, and he accused the US of hypocrisy in judging Russian human rights violators.
“They have their own problems too – just look at Abu Ghraib,” he said, referring to the notorious US-run prison in Iraq.
“At Guantánamo Bay, they keep people in prison for years without any charges,” Mr Putin told hundreds of journalists at a news conference in Moscow. “People there go around in chains, like in medieval times. If we did this we would have been eaten alive. But for them [the reaction] is just silence.”
However, Mr Putin said he would have to study the language of the adoption bill before he would sign it. “I will make a decision depending on what is written there,” he said.
The draft law was passed overwhelmingly in two readings by the Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, on Wednesday, and is expected to pass its final reading on Friday. Nationalists have long viewed foreign adoptions of Russian children as a humiliation, a badge of third-world status which robs their homeland of its progeny.
Mr Putin said he recognised that US families who wanted to adopt Russian orphans were in most cases “nice and respectable people”. But he accused US authorities of “not reacting” to the mistreatment of Russian children by some American parents, and not abiding by an agreement concluded with the US state department last summer which would allow Russia to monitor child abuse cases involving adopted Russian children.
Responding to a question by a journalist – who suggested that Russia did not have the resources to look after its orphans, and that the country’s most vulnerable children would suffer the most from the decision to prevent their adoption by US families – Mr Putin answered in the characteristic fashion reserved for his critics.
“Our representatives are not even allowed as monitors. If you are being humiliated, what, you like that? What are you, a sadomasochist?”
He said that according to opinion polls, a majority of Russians oppose the adoption of Russian children by foreigners. Moreover, Mr Putin said, it was necessary to find a way to respond to a law that was “unfriendly towards Russia”.
Mr Putin’s ambiguous response to the adoption law, together with his assessment of it as appropriate, gives the Duma the chance to posture over Russia’s wounded national pride, but may allow the president to avoid actions that would further worsen Moscow-Washington relations. Mr Obama is due to visit Moscow in the first half of 2013.
Russians have been angered by high-profile cases of adopted children who have died or suffered abuse at the hands of their foster parents.
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