MOSCOW — American adoptions of Russian children must be suspended until the two countries reach a final agreement on adoption procedures, Russia's foreign minister said Wednesday.
Adoptions have become a highly emotional issue since an American adoptive mother sent her 7-year-old boy back to Russia unaccompanied in April, saying she was giving him up because of his emotional problems.
American and Russian officials have reached broad agreement on an adoption pact, and the Russian parliament this month rejected a motion to halt American adoptions.
But Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told parliament that "I consider such a freezing to be absolutely necessary."
"If the process of adoptions by American families is continuing now, during the time of preparing an international agreement, I consider that unacceptable," he said, responding to a parliament member who claimed at least 10 Russian children have been adopted by Americans since Artyom Savelyev was sent back to Moscow.
The Education Ministry has control of adoptions in Russia, but Lavrov's opinion could bring new pressure for an adoption freeze because of his prominence and influence.
Russian and U.S. officials met last week in Moscow about an adoption agreement. Russian children's rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov said Friday the officials had reached agreement on "all conceptual issues" and that the draft will be presented after a final round of talks in mid-June.
The new deal will make it obligatory for adoption agencies as well as adoptive parents to report on their child's health and living conditions, and to "open the door" for social workers to check the facts reported, Astakhov said.
Savelyev's adoptive mother in Tennessee refused to allow a social worker into the house less than a month before the boy was dispatched back to Russia, a visit that could have prevented the boy's misfortunes.
Russia also has accepted a U.S. proposal to allow adoptions only through U.S.-accredited agencies, the ombudsman said. These agencies work in compliance with the Hague Adoption Convention, to which Russia, however, is not a signatory yet.
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