Purcellville case leads to U.S.-Russia dispute

Date: 2009-02-05

Gregg MacDonald
Loudoun Times-Mirror

Repercussions from the tragic case of Purcellville resident Miles Harrison continue to involve officials from Russia and the U.S. State Department.

Harrison was charged with involuntary manslaughter after his 21-month-old adopted son was found dead in an unattended vehicle in Herndon on July 8, 2008. The high temperature that day was 91 degrees.

The child, originally named Dmitry Yakolev and later renamed Chase Harrison, was adopted from Russia at a cost to Miles and Carol Harrison of about $80,000. At the time of his death, the toddler was still a Russian citizen, according to the Russian Embassy.

When Miles Harrison was acquitted by Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Terence Ney last December, Russian officials were outraged.

Alina Levitskaya, head of the Russian Ministry of Education and Science's child welfare department, said on the ministry's Web site that Ney's ruling in the Harrison case would "lead to a tightening of requirements for the adoption of Russian children by U.S. Citizens."

The U.S. State Department has since asked Russia to ratify the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, which has been adopted by 70 countries including the United States and was signed, but not ratified, by Russia in 2000.

Yevgeniy Khorishko, press secretary for the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C., told the Times that Russia instead has asked the United States to agree to a more stringent bilateral agreement of adoptions between the two countries.

On Jan. 28, the State Department issued the following statement:

“Although the Russians have inquired before about the feasibility of a bilateral agreement on adoptions, the Department of State has replied that we do not support signing a bilateral adoption agreement with Russia that would duplicate the Convention, be difficult to negotiate, and lead to federalism implications in the United States and other countries with federal systems.

Instead, we strongly encourage the Government of Russia to move forward with ratifying the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, which Russia has signed. Among the protections under the Convention is a requirement for all prospective adoptive parents to undergo mandatory parenting classes.”

Contact the reporter at gmacdonald@timespapers.com

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