MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin on Friday signed a bill banning Americans from adopting Russian children, part of a harsh response to a U.S. law targeting Russians deemed to be human rights violators.
Although some top Russian officials including the foreign minister openly opposed the bill and Putin himself had been noncommittal about it last week, he signed it less than 24 hours after receiving it from Parliament, where both houses passed it overwhelmingly.
The law also calls for closure of non-governmental organizations receiving American funding if their activities are classified as political — a broad definition many fear could be used to close any NGO that offends the Kremlin.
It was not immediately clear when the law would take effect, but presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov By was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying "practically, adoption stops on Jan. 1."
Children's rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov said 52 children who were in the pipeline for U.S. adoption would remain in Russia.
The bill has angered Americans and Russians who argue it victimizes children to make a political point, cutting off a route out of frequently dismal orphanages for thousands.
"Our unlucky children, our orphans are suffering because they became small change in a political game between two states. This is immoral, this is cannibalism," veteran human rights campaigner Lyudmila Alexeyeva was quoted as saying by the state news agency RIA Novosti.
Vladimir Lukin, head of the Russian Human Rights Commission and a former ambassador to Washington, said he would challenge the law in the Constitutional Court.
UNICEF estimates that there are about 740,000 children not in parental custody in Russia while about 18,000 Russians are on the waiting list to adopt a child. The U.S. is the biggest destination for adopted Russian children — more than 60,000 of them have been taken in by Americans over the past two decades.