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Russia to allow 'some orphans' to be adopted in US

A protester holds a poster reading in part: 'Stop putting shame on yourselves!” near Russia’s parliament on December 21
A protester holds a poster which reads: “Are orphans guilty of Magnitsky's death? Stop putting shame on yourselves!” outside the lower house of Russia’s parliament on December 21, 2012. Russian children whose adoptions have already been approved by courts

Russian children whose adoption has already been approved by the courts will be able to go to the United States despite a blanket ban on American adoptions, a Kremlin spokesman said on Friday.

"Those who have received a court decision will go," President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told AFP. "Those who do not have a decision will not go."

He declined to give further details but Russian officials say 52 children were in the process of being adopted by US parents when the controversial ban on US adoptions came into force on January 1.

Russia adopted the law in reprisal for new US legislation that targets Russian officials who have allegedly committed rights abuses.

Kremlin children's rights envoy Pavel Astakhov said, citing a preliminary figure, that 52 children were at various stages of being adopted by Americans and that he had requested firm data from the education and science ministry.

"Currently no-one can tell for sure -- these are children from Kamchatka to Kaliningrad," he told AFP, referring to Russia's eastern and western borders.

"This is all very individual. Every child is in a different situation, at a different stage."

But the United States has said between 500 to 1,000 American families at various stages of the adoption process could be affected and that after an appeal on a special website set up to handle the crisis the State Department had been contacted by 950 people.

Discussions were being held in Washington Friday with Russian officials, while a conference call by the US Consular Affairs bureau with some of the affected families was also to be held later in the day.

"When we talk about some 500 to 1,000 potentially, it could be anything from that first inkling and outreach by email to a Russian adoption agency all the way through those folks who were literally within days of having final approval and able to pick up a child," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on the Vitus Bering nuclear-powered icebreaker in  St. Petersburg on January 10, 2013
Russia's President Vladimir Putin visits the Vitus Bering nuclear-powered icebreaker in the Russian city of St. Petersburg on January 10, 2013.

"So we have to agree with Russia which of these cases are going to be allowed to proceed, and we will obviously be doing our utmost to clear as many of them as we can."

Kremlin spokesman Peskov said Thursday that a November 1 international agreement between the United States and Russia aiming to give better protection to adopted children would remain in force until January next year.

Peskov told AFP on Friday that despite the agreement remaining in force for another year, the new law means that Americans are already banned from launching any new adoption procedures.

The ban on US adoptions caused an outcry among rights activists who say Russian families are reluctant to adopt children with disabilities.

On a visit to an orphanage in Ivanovo in central Russia, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev pledged Friday to raise standards at state institutions for children.

"Of course, we will try to do everything to make things normal here and in other places, too," Putin's predecessor at the Kremlin said in televised remarks.

Russia's opposition movement plans to hold a march in central Moscow on Sunday calling for a lifting of the adoption ban.

More than 100,000 signatures have already been collected against the measure which critics quickly named the "law of scoundrels."

The Novaya Gazeta opposition newspaper is collecting signatures on a petition calling for the dissolution of the Russian lower house of parliament, the State Duma.

Many said they would join the march for the first time since the start of unprecedented protests against Putin's 13-year rule in December 2011.

Andrei Isayev, chairman of the Duma committee responsible for labour, social policies and veterans' affairs, branded those planning to take to the streets "enemies" of Russia.

"All the enemies of Russian sovereignty showed themselves to be fervent supporters of American adoptions," the acid-tongued parliament member wrote in mass-circulation Komsomolskaya Pravda.

"On January 13 they will march for a right to freely export Russian children to America. Our task in the near future is to drive them into a social and political wasteland."

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