U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) today urged Russian officials to lift a ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian children. In a meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak, Wicker highlighted potential adoptions, including the cases of Mississippi families, that were halted because of the new policy and pressed for the ban to be overturned.
"It is unfortunate that the Russian government would victimize its country's own children to distract from its human rights failings," said Wicker. "Mississippians have opened their families to Russian children, providing them with a welcoming home and a tremendous amount of love. Because of the deplorable actions of the Russian government, children currently in Russian orphanages will not have the same opportunities. I will continue working with my colleagues to resolve this terrible issue."
On December 28, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law prohibiting the adoption of Russian children by U.S. families. The move was in retaliation to U.S. passage of the Sergei Magnitsky Act, which put travel restrictions on government officials involved in the death of Sergei Magnitsky who was tortured and died after uncovering a significant conspiracy involving high-ranking Russian officials. The adoption ban went into effect on January 1, 2013.
According to UNICEF, there are an estimated 740,000 children not in parental custody in Russia, with 128,000 children living in orphanages.
Wicker and other members of Congress have called on the Russian government to allow adoptions for all cases initiated before the ban. Families interested in adopting a child were required to visit the child in Russia toward the beginning of the process. In a letter to President Putin, the members wrote, in part, "we hope you agree that it is in the best interests of the hundreds of children who have already met and bonded with a U.S. family to permit their adoption cases to proceed to conclusion."