Russia’s upper house of parliament on Wednesday unanimously backed a bill barring US citizens from adopting Russian children, leaving the controversial measure in the hands of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The rubber-stamp hearing cleared the last legislative hurdle for a bill representing one of the toughest pieces of anti-US legislation to emerge during Putin’s 13 years in charge.
Putin has expressed sympathy for the measure — drafted in retaliation for a new US law sanctioning Russian officials implicated in the prison death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in 2009 — without explicitly committing to signing it.
The bill has passed the three required readings in the State Duma lower house despite protests from rights advocates, the UN and even the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Russian actor Konstantin Khabensky underlined the unease in Russia about the law by appearing next to Putin during a Kremlin awards ceremony wearing a button reading: “Keep children outside politics.”
The ceremony occurred moments before the Federation Council — made up exclusively of Putin’s allies and ruling party members — passed the measure in a 143 to 0 vote.
“I believe that any foreign adoption is detrimental to our country,” children’s rights commissioner Pavel Astakhov said. “A country as great as Russia should not be selling its children.”
The bill also includes a provision forbidding Russian political organizations from receiving US funding.
The White House said it intended to raise concerns with both parts of the legislation at future meetings with Russian officials.
“Children should have every opportunity to grow up in loving families,” US President Barack Obama’s national security staff said. “Their fate should not be linked to unrelated political considerations.”
UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake issued a similar plea, saying the government must make sure the “current plight of the many Russian children in institutions receives priority attention.”
“We ask that the government of Russia, in its design and development of all efforts to protect children, let the best interests of children — and only their best interests — determine its actions,” he said.
Moscow’s pointman on US relations conceded that Wednesday’s vote was likely to worsen bilateral ties.
“This weight, this ballast will act as a drag on our relations. There is no doubt about that,” Interfax quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying. “With everything that has been happening, the backdrop [to our relations] going into the new year is very bad.”