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Russia Wants Right to Prosecute U.S. Parents

Russia froze adoptions after Artyom Savelyev was sent unaccompanied on a plane to Moscow on April 8 with a note fr om his U.S. mother that said he was violent and psychologically unfit. Igor Tabakov

Russia will demand the right to file charges against U.S. parents who abuse or neglect adopted Russian children during treaty negotiations aimed at unfreezing adoptions after a U.S. mother returned her 7-year-old adopted son to Russia.

A U.S. State Department delegation held initial talks about the treaty with Russian officials at the Foreign Ministry on Thursday, and the main negotiations are scheduled for May 12, the office of the children's ombudsman said.

It was unclear when an agreement might be reached.

Russia froze adoptions after Artyom Savelyev was sent unaccompanied on a plane to Moscow on April 8 with a note fr om his U.S. mother that said he was violent and psychologically unfit.

Children's ombudsman Pavel Astakhov said Thursday that the Russian side would make sure that the treaty better protected the rights of adopted children and allowed Russian prosecutors to bring criminal charges against U.S. parents who were abusive or negligent.

"The agreement will create a legal basis for the continuation of international adoptions and, most important, empower Russia to demand that the adoptive parents observe the legal rights and interests of the child, up to the criminal prosecution of violators," Astakhov said, Interfax reported.

Russian negotiators will also seek the creation of a single agency to handle all issues relating to the transfer of Russian children to foreign parents, including follow-up questions about the well-being of adopted children, Astakhov said in a statement on his office's web site.

"This agreement will take into account the rules of the Hague Convention, but it will significantly expand its borders," Astakhov said, referring to the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, an international agreement between signatory countries on best adoption practices.

He said the treaty should stipulate that all adoptions are carried out through accredited agencies, except in cases wh ere the child was adopted by relatives, and that the adoptive parents receive psychological testing and training on child-rearing.

He said Russia's demands have been compiled in a draft treaty.

The head of the visiting U.S. delegation, Michael Kirby, told journalists Thursday that the delegation had not received the Russian draft treaty but stressed that both sides would strive to reach an agreement.

The negotiations were initially scheduled for April 19 and 20 but were postponed after a volcanic eruption in Iceland suspended many trans-Atlantic flights.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton raised the issue of child adoptions during a telephone conversation with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier this week, U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said Wednesday. He did not elaborate.

Some 3,500 Russian children are currently in the process of being adopted by about 3,000 U.S. families, according to the Joint Council on International Children’s Services, which represents many U.S. agencies engaged in international adoption.

U.S. families have adopted more than 14,000 children from Russia within five years, including 1,500 last year.

Russia has long called for the treaty on adoptions, pointing to the deaths of 17 children at the hands of their U.S. parents in recent years, but the United States only responded after the freeze on adoptions this month.

Meanwhile, Artyom Savelyev was transferred Thursday to an orphanage from the hospital wh ere he had been kept for medical tests after being returned to Russia on April 8, Astakhov's office said. The boy will stay at the orphanage for a few weeks as officials look to place him with a Russian family. The boy was adopted from an orphanage in the Far East in September.

Also on Thursday, a U.S. court was scheduled to hold a preliminary hearing into the death of Ivan Skorobogatov, 7, whose adoptive parents are accused of beating him to death Aug. 25.

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