‘End to adoption question’: Russia shocked at another child’s death in US
Russian politicians and media are outraged by the death of a three-year-old adopted Russian boy and US silence on the matter. The boy was reportedly brutally beaten in Texas by his adoptive mother, who allegedly also gave him psychotropic medication.
Maksim Kuzmin was adopted at the beginning of November 2012. Just two-and-a-half months later he was found dead, on January 21, 2013.
Russia has reacted extremely critically to the fact that the US waited almost a month before notifying Russian authorities about what happened. Even then, it was Texas’ law enforcement authorities that spoke out, while the other US channels remained mute on the subject.
Russia’s Investigative Committee has launched a probe into the death of Maksim at the hands of his adoptive American family. Investigators stated they will be adding adoptive mother Laura Shatto’s name to the international watch list and applying for her arrest.
The US State Department confirmed that it will assist Russia with the investigation and help to coordinate talks with Texas.
The US Embassy in Russia has expressed condolences via its Twitter account.
“We deeply regret the death of the child in Texas. A death of a child is always a tragedy,” the statement said.
US Child Services is also investigating claims that the child was severely abused, but thus far cannot verify anything, stated Texas Child Protective Services (CPS) spokesman Patrick Crimmins.
There had been several reports of physical abuse and neglect, but the authorities are still waiting for final autopsy results and thus far no arrests have been made.
An investigation usually takes around 30 days, but when the law enforcement is also involved it may take longer, said the spokesperson.
Maksim died before medics called by Shatto arrived at the scene, Russian Children’s Ombudsman Pavel Astakhov stated, quoting Texan authorities.
Preliminary evidence showed that the boy suffered multiple injuries to his head, limbs, abdomen and internal organs prior to death.
The Russian Foreign Ministry's special representative for human rights, Konstantin Dolgov, stated that such wounds "could only be caused by strong blows."
Maksim was reportedly beaten by his adoptive mother, who had also fed him strong psychotropic medication – Risperdal, which is used for short-term treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorders and approved for prescription in the US starting from the age of 10.
Yet the Pechorski foster home, from where Maksim came, stated that he did not suffer from any mental illnesses and had no abnormalities when it came to mental and intellectual development.
The Russian investigation also revealed that Maksim was adopted along with his brother Kirill from the same foster home as Dima Yakovlev, an 18-month old Russian boy who died after his adoptive American father left him locked inside a vehicle for an extended period of time on a hot summer’s day.
The new Russian ‘Dima Yakovlev Law’, which bans all US adoptions in Russia, is named after him.
Maksim’s adoption procedure is being looked into separately, including checking whether his relatives were contacted to approve the adoption.
Maksim was born in the town of Pskov, near Russia’s western border with Estonia.
Upon arrival to US he was renamed as Max Alan Shatto by his parents Alan and Laura Shatto, with whom he lived in Gardendale, about 350 miles west of Dallas.
‘Brother should be brought home to Pskov’
Maksim’s death comes amid heightened Russia-US tensions, which center on adopted children. The boy’s death was less than a month after the ‘Dima Yakovlev Law’ was signed into law.
Russia has reacted sternly to the news that the US waited almost a month to let Russian authorities know of the incident.
Russian Chairman of the Duma Committee on Foreign Affairs Aleksey Pushkov believes that Maksim’s death has become the last point in the US adoption ban debate.
"The death of another Russian three-year-old baby in the US finally puts an end to the question of adoption of our children in the US. Again, the US authorities are silent," Pushkov tweeted.
In response to the news Pskov Governor Andrey Turchak has temporarily suspended all adoptions in the region.
Local Russian authorities will also be seeking custody of Maksim’s brother Kirill, who now has been transferred into the care of the extended family of the adoptive parents. It is still not clear what will happen to him afterwards.
“Kirill cannot stay in the US since their legal procedures force him to be passed from one place to the next, which is additional trauma for the child. He is not a cat or a dog. He should come back to the Pskov Region,” said Governor Andrey Turchak.
The search for a new adoptive Russian family began on Tuesday.
Many politicians expressed shock at how inhumanely Maksim was treated.
“A new case of a Russian kid to die in the US. Under no circumstances should Russian kids be given away abroad”, Liberal-Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky wrote on his Twitter feed.
Russia’s Duma held a minute of silence in memory of Maksim on Tuesday.
US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul has been invited to the Duma to discuss the topic of Russian adoptive kids abroad.
First Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets and Education Minister Dmitry Livanov were also invited to talk about the measures Russia has in place to protect orphans from being adopted by problematic families.