Newly Adopted Boy Taken From U.S. Couple

Date: 2005-06-06
Source: Moscow Times

A newly adopted 3-year-old boy was taken away from his American parents at the Ukraina hotel, where they were staying, after a woman called police to report that he was being abused in a hotel cafe, an official said Friday.

The boy was placed in a children's home, and prosecutors are considering whether to charge the couple with child abuse, said Viktor Pronin, an assistant to the prosecutor for Moscow's Dorogomilovo District.

The U.S. Embassy issued a harsh rebuke to Russian authorities over their handling of the case, accusing them of "double standards" and possibly breaking the law.

The embassy said in a statement that authorities forcibly removed the child from the parents' custody and questioned the parents for "many hours." It also said police and prosecutors failed to call in child welfare experts to help establish the true facts of the case.

The embassy said it was revealing that Moskovsky Komsomolets had not mentioned any of this in a front-page article that it published Friday.

Moskovsky Komsomolets reported that the woman who called police claimed to have seen the adoptive mother grab the boy by the throat in an attempt to keep him quiet. It published the names of the couple and their photographs under the front-page headline "A Boy for Beating." Other national media quickly picked up the story.

"While the U.S. Embassy is limited in its ability to respond to these allegations because of privacy laws, the article appeared intended to further inflame growing public hysteria over foreign adoptions, obscuring the facts and ignoring Russia's own laws designed to protect the innocent children," the embassy said.

"The unusual attention to and handling of this case by Russian authorities and the Russian press suggests that a double standard exists for Americans and other foreigners with respect to child welfare," it said.

The embassy also said Moskovsky Komsomolets and police appeared to have violated Article 155 of the Criminal Code by revealing and publishing identities and details about the case without the consent of the adoptive parents.

Several officials in the Dorogomilovo District's police station, including police chief Alexei Smirnov, confirmed Friday that they are aware of the case but declined to comment, redirecting all queries to the district prosecutor's office.

Pronin, who oversees issues related to children at the prosecutor's office, refused to provide further details about what might have happened at the hotel, saying the city prosecutor's office had barred him from speaking about it.

The embassy said the parents had left the country. "Russian authorities have specifically victimized this American family, forcing them to depart the country without their child over disagreements on childrearing practices," it said.

Pronin said investigators would probably reach a decision Monday on whether any wrongdoing was committed. "If it is confirmed, we will start criminal proceedings. If it is not, we will offer apologies," he said.

The case comes amid calls by some senior officials to tightly restrict or even outlaw foreign adoptions after an adopted boy died in the United States. National media have played up the trial of Irma Pavlis, an adoptive mother from Illinois who was sentenced last month to 12 years in prison in the death of her 6-year-old Russian son.

The officials say children should be adopted by Russian parents, and the government last week kicked off a PR drive complete with a web site and television ads aimed at encouraging domestic adoptions.

Also last week, the Education and Science Ministry said it would not renew the accreditations of more than a dozen foreign agencies after determining that they had committed various violations.

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