MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a controversial new law Friday banning the adoption of Russian children by U.S. families.
The action could affect hundreds of American families seeking to adopt.
Americans adopted close to 1,000 Russian children last year, according to U.S. State Department figures.
Though the number has been dropping in recent years, Russia remains the third most popular country for U.S. citizens to adopt, after China and Ethiopia.
The U.S. State Department said it “deeply regrets” the new Russian law.
“The Russian government’s politically motivated decision will reduce adoption possibilities for children who are now under institutional care,” it said in a statement. “We are further concerned about statements that adoptions already underway may be stopped and hope that the Russian government would allow those children who have already met and bonded with their future parent to finish the necessary legal procedures so that they can join their families.”
The law, which goes into effect on January 1, is widely seen as retaliation for a law that U.S. President Barack Obama signed on December 14.
That bill, called the Magnitsky Act, imposes U.S. travel and financial restrictions on human rights abusers in Russia.
The Magnitsky Act is named in honor of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who uncovered the largest tax fraud in the country’s history in the form of rebates claimed by government officials who stole money from the state.
Magnitsky died in 2009 after a year in a Moscow detention center, apparently beaten to death.
The Russian bill’s implementation nullifies a recent agreement between the United States and Russia in which the countries agreed to additional safeguards to protect children and parties involved in inter-country adoptions.
Backers of the Russian bill said American adoptive parents have been abusive, citing 19 deaths of Russian children since the 1990s.
In 2010, an American woman caused outrage after she sent her adopted son back to Russia alone on a one-way flight, saying the boy, then 7, had become to hard to handle.
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