Russian investigators have opened an inquiry into the death of an adopted three-year-old boy in the US in a case that could aggravate a row with Washington over adoptions in Russia.
Russian officials said they are concerned that Maxim Shatto, whose Russian name is Maxim Kuzmin, may have been badly beaten before his death on Jan. 21 in his home in Texas.
Moscow seized on the case as justifying a new law banning adoptions of Russian children by Americans, a measure that has escalated a tit-for-tat row with Washington over trade and human rights.
“I would like to draw your attention to yet another case of inhumane treatment of a Russian child adopted by American parents,” the Russian Foreign Ministry’s human rights representative Konstantin Dolgov said in a statement.
Shatto was adopted with his younger brother Kirill from an orphanage in Pskov in northwest Russia.
US authorities said the circumstances surrounding the boy’s death were under investigation and the results of an autopsy were pending, according to the Ector County Sheriff’s office.
Texas child welfare authorities were also investigating allegations of child abuse and neglect in the case, a process that can take a month or more, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services spokesman Patrick Crimmins said on Tuesday.
Crimmins said one of the main priorities was ensuring the safety of the boy’s two-year-old brother, who remains in the home.
Russia’s Investigative Committee has opened 10 investigations into actions suspected of “threatening the lives and health” of Russian-born children in the US.
“The Investigative Committee will take all necessary measures to ensure that the killer of a Russian child suffers the most severe punishment,” it said in a statement.
In Washington, US Department of State spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said it was local law enforcement’s responsibility to investigate the boy’s death.
“It is a terrible tragedy that this child has died, but none of us ... should jump to a conclusion about the circumstances,” Nuland said.