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U.S. 'Deeply Regrets' Russia's Adoption Ban

The State Department says it "deeply regrets" the passage of a law in Russia ending adoptions of Russian children by American families and restricting Russian civil society groups that work with American partners. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who signed the law Friday, described it as an "appropriate response" to U.S. legislation that imposes visa bans on Russians accused of gross human rights violations. The Russians seem to be upping the ante, however, and orphans are caught in the middle.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

The State Department says it deeply regrets a new Russian law that ends American adoptions of Russian children and imposes more restrictions on civil society groups. Russian President Vladimir Putin has described it as an appropriate response to U.S. legislation that imposes visa bans on Russians accused of human rights violations. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: When Congress passed a law a few weeks ago to punish gross human rights violators in Russia, Moscow promised to retaliate. The response that came was utterly disproportionate, says David Kramer, president of Freedom House.

DAVID KRAMER: This legislation that Putin has signed goes after Russian orphans and Russian nongovernmental organizations. I don't see how this is a real response to the U.S. legislation at all.

KELEMEN: He says this is part of a trend in Russia. Putin had already been cracking down on foreign funding for Russian nongovernmental groups and now, Kramer says, the Russians are taking this a step further.

KRAMER: It's a disgusting abuse of the legislative process that is trying to close down Russian civil society.

KELEMEN: The U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, says he deeply regrets the new legislation and he says many Russians do as well.

AMBASSADOR MICHAEL MCFAUL: There are voices in the Russian government, and most strikingly also in Russian society, that also see what happened as being deeply regrettable. All you have to do is go to my Facebook page or my Twitter feed and you'll see literally hundreds, if not thousands, of Russians that also do not think that this was in Russia's national interest.

KELEMEN: McFaul says the politics in Russia had simply spun out of control, particularly on the adoption issue and his main concern now is how to help families in the adoption process.

MCFAUL: Flying home here to Bozeman from Moscow just a few days ago, I met one of those expecting mothers. She was, you know, as you can imagine, in tears. She has met the child that she hopes to adopt already, you know, two or three times and those are the people that we are trying to help right now.

KELEMEN: Resolving such cases is the least the Russians can do, says Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute.

ADAM PERTMAN: Very few children adopted today are really young. You know, they're conscious. They know what's going on and those children right now believe that they're moving out of an institution and into a family. It would be one wonderful gesture if, at a minimum, the Russian government can tell those children we're not going to stop you.

KELEMEN: Pertman says a significant chapter in modern adoption history is coming to a close. Ambassador McFaul, though, says he's not ready to give up. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

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