MOSCOW (AP) — Some of the Russian children caught in limbo by their country's ban on adoptions by Americans have left for the United States with their new parents, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow said Wednesday.
The confirmation to The Associated Press from press attaché Joseph Kruzich was the first official word that any of the 46 children had been allowed to leave Russia. Kruzich did not say exactly how many of the children had already left, but it was clear that all of these adoptions could now go forward, bringing huge relief to the children's would-be parents in America.
The ban on adoptions by Americans was rushed through Russia's parliament and signed by President Vladimir Putin in December in retaliation for a U.S. law that sanctions Russians said to have violated human rights.
But the hasty enactment left many questions unresolved, including the fates of the 46 children whose adoptions had just been approved by Russian courts. The court approval of the adoptions had to be followed by a 30-day waiting period, but that period wasn't over before the ban went into effect Jan. 1, leaving the children in legal limbo.
Many of the adoptive parents came to Russia last week hoping to take home children with whom they had already bonded during two or more previous trips to Russia as part of the lengthy adoption process. But some of the Americans were left hanging when officials refused to turn over the children, citing uncertainty over the new law. Others had more luck, but kept low profiles, unwilling to jeopardize adoptions that still seemed shaky.
Russia's Supreme Court was asked to establish a legal framework for resolving the dilemma and it issued its ruling on Tuesday, stating firmly that all adoptions approved by courts by Jan. 1, even if they had not gone into effect, would be allowed to proceed. The same assurances had been given last Thursday by Russia's ombudsman for children's rights, but his words carried no legal weight.
The embassy press attaché confirmed that some of the American families had managed to get their new children even before the Supreme Court ruling.
"Following up on recent statements by Russian authorities, the embassy can confirm that several adoptions have been finalized under Russian law," Kruzich told the AP. "The embassy in Moscow has processed the applications of these adopting parents in accordance with standard procedures. We will continue processing those cases that are approved by Russian courts."
The first children left Russia on Friday and Saturday, a day after their applications were processed by the embassy.
Hundreds more families — perhaps 1,500 in all — were in some earlier phase of pursuing an adoption from Russia. The Supreme Court ruling appears to put an end to their hopes.
Russia has more than 654,000 children not in parental custody, and 128,000 of them are eligible for adoption, most of them now living in orphanages. Russia has been trying to increase domestic adoptions, and 18,000 Russians are on the waiting list to adopt a child.
Americans adopted nearly 1,000 Russian children in 2011, about 10 percent of them classified as disabled.
While the immediate purpose of Russia's ban was to retaliate for the new U.S. law targeting Russians, the ban also reflects resentment over the 60,000 Russian children who have been adopted by Americans in the past two decades, 19 of whom have died.
But many Russians have been angered by the adoption ban, which they see as sacrificing children to make a political point. A protest in Moscow this month to denounce the law and those who enacted it drew tens of thousands of demonstrators.