(From AP Worldstream)
Byline: DIANA ELIAS
Russian and American authorities have broken up a network that illegally gathered confidential information on children and sold it to adoption agencies, a Russian prosecutor said Tuesday.
Deputy Prosecutor General Sergei Fridinsky said that Russian citizens, along with Americans in California, had set up an organization called "Yunona" and had gathered information on Ukrainian, Kazakh and Guatemalan children for several years.
"Pretending to provide various services, this group was effectively engaged in trafficking in children," he said in statement.
Officials at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow could not comment immediately on the report.
Russian news reports said a 6-year-old Russian boy who was allegedly beaten to death by his adoptive parents in the U.S. state of Illinois in December 2003 was adopted through the network.
In recent years, Russian officials have become more aggressive about foreigners' adopting Russian children, with some nationalist lawmakers asserting that children are being "bought" by foreigners. Cases of abuse by foreign adoptive parents are widely reported in the Russian media.
Advocates for children, however, have disputed the assertions and say restricting foreign adoptions would harm thousands of Russian children waiting to be adopted.
The number of Russian adoptions has dropped from 14,000 to about 7,000 annually since the early 1990s, while the number of foreign adoptions rose from 1,400 to 9,000. U.S. families account for half of those.