* Upper house of parliament approves retaliatory bill
* Bill adds to strains in U.S.-Russian relations
* Americans accused of rights abuses will be denied visas
By Steve Gutterman and Alissa de Carbonnel
MOSCOW, Dec 26 A bill banning Americans from
adopting Russian children went to President Vladimir Putin for
his signature on Wednesday after winning final approval from
parliament in retaliation for a U.S. law that targets Russian
human rights abusers.
Putin has strongly hinted he will sign the bill, which would
also outlaw some U.S.-funded non-governmental groups and impose
visa bans and asset freezes on Americans accused of violating
the rights of Russians.
The Federation Council, Russia's upper house of parliament,
voted unanimously to approve the bill, which has clouded
U.S.-Russia relations and outraged Russian liberals who say
lawmakers are playing a political game with the lives of
U.S.-Russia ties are already strained over issues ranging
from Syria to the Kremlin's treatment of opponents and
restrictions imposed on civil society groups since Putin, in
power since 2000, began a new six-year term in May.
The bill has also drawn unusual criticism from senior
government officials including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
and Olga Golodets, a deputy prime minister who warned the
Kremlin that it may violate an international convention on
Lavrov said last week that the ban would be "wrong", and
that Russia should stand by a long-awaited bilateral accord that
improves its ability to keep tabs on children adopted by
Americans, which entered into force on Nov. 1.
But Lavrov appears to have backed down. Foreign Ministry
officials said on Wednesday that the bill would not violate the
1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, and Russia would
take steps to halt the bilateral agreement.
Putin has described the bill as an emotional but appropriate
response to U.S. legislation he said was poisoning relations.
U.S. President Barack Obama this month signed off on the
Magnitsky Act, which imposes visa bans and asset freezes on
Russians accused of human rights violations, including those
linked to the death in custody of an anti-graft lawyer in 2009.
The ban on American adoptions takes Russia's response a step
further, playing on deep sensitivity among Russians - and the
government in particular - about adoptions by foreigners, which
skyrocketed after the 1991 Soviet collapse.
The bill is named after Dima Yakovlev, a Russian-born
toddler who died of a heat stroke when his adoptive American
father forgot him in a car. He is one of 19 Russian-born
children Moscow says have died "at the hands of U.S. citizens"
in a decade, in cases that have been prominently featured in
Russian state media.
In a poll conducted on Dec. 23 by the Moscow-based Public
Opinion Foundation, 75 percent of respondents said Russia should
ban or place additional restrictions on foreign adoptions.
"It is immoral to send our children abroad to any country,"
Valery Shtyrov, a Federation Council deputy, said in a one-sided
debate peppered with hawkish rhetoric before the 143-0 vote.
Children's rights advocates say the law, due to take effect
on Jan. 1 if signed by Putin, will deprive children of a way out
of Russia's overcrowded orphanage system.
"This is the most vile law passed since Putin came to
power," opposition activist Boris Nemtsov said, saying he was
certain the president would sign it. "Putin is taking children
hostage, like a terrorist".
Police said they had arrested seven people protesting
against the law on Wednesday outside the Federation Council.
Nevertheless, lawmaker Gennady Makin said the Magnitsky Act
demanded a tough response.
"He who comes to Russia with a sword dies by that sword," he
The Russian bill would outlaw U.S.-funded "non-profit
organisations that engage in political activity", which Putin
accuses of trying to influence Russian politics.
Russia ejected the United States Agency for International
Development (USAID), which funds Russian non-governmental
groups, in October, and Putin has signed a law forcing many
foreign-funded organisations to register as "foreign agents" - a
term that evokes the Cold War.
Americans affected by the visa ban could include those
involved in the prosecution of Viktor Bout, a Russian arms
dealer serving a 25-year prison term in the United States after
an arrest and trial condemned as unfair by Moscow.