World News

Russia halts U.S. adoptions after boy sent home

MOSCOW, April 15 Reuters) - Russia has halted adoptions to U.S. families after an American woman sent her adopted son back to Moscow by himself on a plane with a note disowning him, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.

However, Washington said Russia had not told it of any broad suspension and was receiving conflicting information from Russian officials. The State Department said it was seeking clarification and would send a team to Moscow next week.

Artyom Savelyev, 7, arrived alone at a Moscow airport from the United States last week with a typed letter asking the Russian government to annul the adoption on the grounds the child was mentally unstable.

President Dmitry Medvedev denounced the episode as a “monstrous deed” and the Foreign Ministry said on Thursday no further adoptions would be approved until a new agreement regulating the procedure is reached with U.S. authorities.

“The future adoption of Russian children by American families, which has been halted, will only be possible if such an agreement is reached,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko told a briefing in Moscow.

Medvedev has called for an agreement setting out the duties of American parents in such cases and creating a system to monitor the treatment of the adopted children.

In Washington, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters “we have not been informed of any broad suspension” although he noted that Washington had previously been told that adoptions through one U.S. agency had been halted.

“Right now, to be honest, we’ve received, you know, conflicting information,” Crowley told reporters. “The bottom line is we’re not aware of any change in (Russian) policy.”

In addition to asking Moscow to clarify the foreign ministry spokesman’s comments, Crowley said a U.S. team would go to Russia next week to try to reach an understanding to ensure that adoptions continue.

Russia is the third largest source of foreign adoptions to the United States with 1,586 in 2009, according to the State Department.

Russia tightened its adoption process after several Russian children were killed by their adoptive parents in the United States. The additional procedures caused a sharp fall in numbers of U.S. adoptions from a peak of 5,862 in 2004.

In one case, an American woman from Virginia was convicted in 2006 of fatally beating a 2-year-old girl adopted from Siberia and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Artyom, the boy whose case sparked the diplomatic tussle, is being housed in a clinic in Moscow and is in good health, the Russian foreign ministry said.

Artyom was adopted from an orphanage in Russia’s Far East in 2009. After six months, his adoptive mother Torry Hansen, a single nurse from Tennessee, decided he was not fitting in and bought him a one-way ticket to Moscow. In her note, she described the child as mentally unstable and violent.