Children, many ill, would be victims of Russia ban on U.S. adoption

Wed Dec 26, 2012 7:33am EST
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By Nastassia Astrasheuskaya and Alissa de Carbonnel

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Family Christmas cards and smiling snapshots of children sent by their adoptive American parents fill Galina Sigayeva's office in Russia's second city St Petersburg.

Many of them were crippled by illness and in desperate need of medical care before her agency helped organize their adoption into U.S. families, she recalls.

Children's rights campaigners say kids like these will suffer most if President Vladimir Putin approves a law barring American adoptions that has been rubber-stamped by Russian lawmakers. The act retaliates against a new U.S. law that will punish Russians accused of human rights violations.

Critics of the bill say Russian orphanages are woefully overcrowded and the fate of vulnerable children should not be used as a bargaining chip in a bilateral feud.

"These children are not even offered to foreigners until they get a certain number of (adoption) refusals from Russians," said Sigayeva, a neatly-styled brunette who heads the New Hope Christian Services Adoption Agency.

"These are children with complicated diagnoses, really complicated. They are very ill children."

She smiled as she flipped through photos of children embraced by their adoptive parents, playing with family pets and enjoying presents and other trappings of holiday cheer.

"What surprises me is that here they all look so healthy, so fantastic, but you should see what they look like when they are taken from here," Sigayeva said.   Continued...

Orphan children play in their bedroom at an orphanage in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, December 19, 2012. REUTERS/Vladimir Konstantinov