Russia refuses to bend on adoption ban

Senators failed to extract any significant concessions from Russia on Wednesday after an hourlong meeting about the country’s ban on adoptions from the United States.

The meeting with the Russian ambassador was spearheaded by Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), both parents of adopted children. They urged Ambassador Sergey Kislyak to press Russian leaders to revisit the law banning Americans from adopting Russian children and to ensure that adoptions currently under way can be completed.

“I wouldn't say the meeting was overly encouraging,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) told reporters after the meeting. “There is a law. And our request was, within that law, and the international adoption agreement [Russia] signed that requires a year's notice, let's find some opening that allows these adoptions to be completed.”

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The Russian parliament enacted the ban last December in retaliation for U.S. travel and financial sanctions against alleged Russian human rights violators as well as several incidents involving adopted Russians. U.S. lawmakers are trying to get Russia to allow some adoptions that have already commenced to go through.

“We discussed with the ambassador that there are two issues on our mind,” said Landrieu, the co-chairwoman of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption. “One, finding a way to continue to process the cases of children — there are about 500 or less out of thousands in the pipeline — that have already been matched with parents … [and] how to fix this in the long run.”

Kislyak said he was grateful for the conversation and remains open to further discussions.

“I reassured them that everything that was said to us will be conveyed to the capital,” he said.

Kislyak was accompanied by the embassy's senior legal counselor, Sergey Chumarev, who helped draft the U.S.-Russian adoption agreement that was signed in 2011. The agreement spells out the legal process for adoptions but does not require any to occur.

The ban is part of a series of actions by Russia that demonstrate a sharp deterioration in U.S.-Russian relations since Vladimir Putin's contested reelection last year. In the latest example of the failed “reset” with the Obama administration, Russia on Wednesday terminated an agreement with the United States on law enforcement cooperation and narcotics control.

“We obviously regret that decision because under our agreement we've had a fruitful cooperation with Russia,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

The ban is widely seen as retaliation for last year's passage of the Magnitsky Act, which targets Russian human rights violators. Asked whether senators had offered any political concessions to the Russians to get them to overturn the adoption ban, Blunt responded, “I have nothing to say on that topic.”

But he made it clear Congress won't be revisiting the Magnitsky Act.

“We didn't talk about that,” he said.

Landrieu, for her part, extended an olive branch on the issue of adoptions. Russian officials have complained that some U.S. judges have blocked Russian consular officers' access to Russian children suspected of abuse or negligence, and she vowed to work with Russia to address the country's concerns.

“The country of Russia has not been able to get all the information that they need, and it's caused them some concern,” she said. “I am committed to work with them in the long run to see what we can do to re-establish relations.”