MOSCOW Police detained 15 Russians protesting against a bill to ban U.S. adoptions of Russian orphans in retaliation for a U.S. law that punishes Russian human rights violators, activists said on Wednesday.
Despite criticism of the measure by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, pro-Kremlin lawmakers will hold a preliminary vote on the proposal and on another that would bar Russian non-profit groups from receiving funds from the United States.
Opposition activists said the protesters were detained outside Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma.
Another two dozen protesters stood in the freezing cold heckling deputies as they entered the building. One activist held up before-and-after pictures of a Russian child looking bruised, then happy with his new American parents.
"They (the deputies) are committing an awful act against our people," said Lev Kukhovyesky, 28, a historian who was among the protesters. "We would like to show that we are not indifferent."
The initiatives, which have upset civil rights groups, were added to a bill, approved in the first of three readings on Friday, which would bar entry to Americans who violate the rights of Russians abroad and freeze their assets.
Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed the original bill as an "adequate" response to the U.S. law, which he said had hurt ties with Moscow by ordering visas be denied to Russian human rights violators.
But Putin has signaled he wants to limit the damage to a "reset" in relations with President Barack Obama's administration. The Kremlin said the U.S. leader would visit Russia in the first half of next year.
Putin said the response to the so-called Magnitsky Act should not be "excessive" - a position echoed by his spokesman ahead of the vote on amendments to the bill.
"The tough, emotional reaction of Russian lawmakers is understandable. Of course, the position of the executive branch is more restrained," Dmitry Peskov told the state Itar-Tass agency.
The bill is likely to be put to a third and final vote on Friday. The upper house of parliament and Putin are expected to approve the bill, making it law by the end of the year.
On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Lavrov said a ban on U.S. adoptions would be wrong and Education Minister Dmitry Livanov criticized the idea on his Twitter microblog.
Any ban on U.S. adoptions would go back on new rules agreed in July.
The U.S. Magnitsky Act was drawn up because of concern over the death in a Russian prison of anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in 2009. It has outraged Russian politicians and members of parliament.
In turn, the Duma's bill is named in honor of Dima Yakovlev - a Russian 2-year-old who died when his American adoptive father forgot that he had left him in a closed car in sweltering heat in 2008.
The man was acquitted in the United States, sparking public outraged in Russia and the stricter adoption rules.
(Reporting by Sonia Elks and Alissa de Carbonnel; Editing by Alistair Lyon)