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Russian Adoption: It’s Time to Stop Playing Politics With Russian Ophans

The Child’s World NEWS Editorial Board

The editorial board is currently composed of 9 Mission Stewards with wide-ranging areas of expertise on children’s issues. Their primary responsibility is to select the Child’s World America Board of Directors and oversee the organization’s furtherance of its mission. The Child’s World NEWS editorials represent the voice of Child’s World NEWS Editorial Board. The Editorial Board operates separately from The Child’s World NEWS Opinion editorial staff which includes the Letters to the Editor, Columns, and the Op-Ed,  sections.


 

Initially Donald Trump Jr. said his 2016 meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskayas and Russian-American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin was about adoption.

“We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow up,” Trump Jr. told numerous news outlets. The next day Trump Jr. walked the comment back and said he met with the Russians because they promised him dirt on Hillary Clinton.

It’s not the first time Russian orphans have been used as political tools.

In 2011, Americans adopted 9,319 children from abroad, according to the U.S. State Department. Of those, 962 came from Russia, two-thirds of whom were under the age of three. Also in 2011, The New York Times reported that there were as many as 120,000 children eligible and that U.S. families adopted more children from Russia than from any other foreign country.

In 2012, the U.S. passed the Magnitsky Act as punishment for the death of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who had exposed a massive tax fraud scheme that stole $230 million from Russian taxpayers. Magnitsky died in prison, amid allegations of beatings, without ever coming to trial. The law was intended to punish the Russian officials responsible for his death. CNN reported in May 2017 that 39 Russians have been implicated in the theft and coverup.

Some of the officials who were sanctioned formed Putin’s inner circle. According to numerous news outlets, including a report from NPR, “the most important thing to know about the Magnitsky Act is that Russian President Vladimir Putin and everyone in his orbit hates it.” Putin called it “a purely political, unfriendly act” and has been railing against it ever since it was passed.

Both Veselnitskayas and Akhmetshin, who attended the 2016 meeting with Trump Jr., are linked to a federal investigation into a money laundering operation involving the Russian tax fraud scheme and have lobbied to get the Magnitsky Act repealed.

Russia quickly retaliated against the Magnitsky Act by passing its own adoption law. The Dima Yakovlev Law bans adoption of Russian orphans by U.S. families. Yakovlev was an orphan who died of heat stroke after being left for nine hours in a parked car. The incident got major press in Russia and was used as justification for the law.

The political back and forth continues today, with U.S. families and Russian orphans caught in the middle. Russia is using its orphans as bargaining chips to get the sanctions removed, and the Trump campaign wanted to use the children as political cover for a backroom deal to get the dirt on a political opponent.

Given the current political climate, we may never know the truth but we do know this: It is time to stop playing politics with children’s welfare.

 

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