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Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 10:12
A Russian governor has halted the foreign adoption of orphans in his region after the death in Texas of a 3-year-old boy adopted from Russia that is under investigation.
In West Texas, the Ector County Medical Examiner's Office is investigating because of the "suspicious" nature of the boy's death, investigator Kim Harrington said.
The incident comes at a time of increased tension between Russia and the United States over the issue of foreign adoptions.
Russia recently passed a law that would ban adoptions of Russian children by American families, ostensibly because of documented cases of abuse by adoptive parents. But others say the Russian move is in retaliation for a U.S. law that places restrictions on Russian human rights abusers.
The governor of Russia's Pskov region is not waiting for the national ban to take effect, and announced Tuesday that all orphan adoptions to foreigners would be temporarily stopped.
"Another cruel crime against a child was committed in the United States," Pskov Gov. Andrey Turchak said.
The boy was born on January 9, 2010, and died on January 21, 2013, said Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian Foreign Ministry's special representative for human rights.
Dolgov said the child suffered injuries to his head and legs, as well as to his abdomen and internal organs. The wounds, he said, "could only be caused by strong blows."
Patrick Crimmins, of Texas Child Protective Services, said his office is investigating. The allegations include physical abuse and neglectful supervision, or neglect, he said.
Sgt. Gary Duesler, a spokesman for the Ector County Sheriff's Office, said his office is also investigating. No arrests have been made, and officials are waiting for autopsy results, he said.
The boy's death is confirmation of Russia's decision to ban U.S. adoptions, the Pskov governor said.
"We need to do everything and create all necessary conditions for the orphans to find families here in our Pskov region and in Russia," he said.
Turchak said that the brother of the dead boy, another Russian adoptee, remains in the custody of the adoptive parents. He said his office is working to bring the brother back to Russia, even though the parents, as of Tuesday, have not been charged with any crime or publicly named.
"You need to start taking the necessary procedures today," Turchak said. The brother "can't stay in the United States. With American legislation, he would be transferred from one hand to another. It's an additional trauma for the kid. He's not a dog or a cat."
A call seeking comment to a number listed for the boy's adoptive parents was not immediately returned. A voice message told reporters the parents would have no comment.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Monday that officials are aware of the case.
"The Department of State takes very seriously the welfare of children, particularly children who have been adopted from other countries," she said. "We will continue to assist the Russian Embassy and consulate officials in making contact with the appropriate authorities in Texas."
In December, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a measure that would ban the adoption of Russian children by U.S. families. It is scheduled to take effect in January 2014.
The action could affect hundreds of U.S. families seeking to adopt. Americans adopted close to 1,000 Russian children last year, according to U.S. State Department figures.
Though the number has been dropping in recent years, Russia remains the third most popular foreign country -- after China and Ethiopia -- for U.S. foreign adoptions.
The Russian measure also bars any political activities by nongovernmental organizations receiving funding from the United States, if such activities could affect Russian interests, Russia's semiofficial RIA Novosti news agency said.
And it imposes sanctions on U.S. officials thought to have violated human rights.
The move is widely seen as retaliation for a bill that U.S. President Barack Obama signed into law on December 14. That law, called the Magnitsky Act, imposes U.S. travel and financial restrictions on human rights abusers in Russia.
The act is named for Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who uncovered the largest tax fraud in the country's history in the form of rebates claimed by government officials who stole money from the state. Magnitsky was apparently beaten to death in 2009 after a year in a Moscow detention center.
Backers of the Russian bill said American adoptive parents have been abusive, citing what they say are 19 deaths of adopted Russian children since the 1990s.
The Russian public supported the bill, with 56% of respondents in a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation saying they backed the ban, RIA Novosti reported.
In 2010, an American woman sparked outrage after she sent her adopted son back to Russia alone on a one-way flight, saying the boy, then 7, had violent episodes that made her family fear for its safety.