Russia signs tougher adoption deal with U.S.

MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin has ratified a new agreement with the United States that tightens up rules for U.S. citizens adopting Russian children, his office said on Monday, after a spate of abuse cases that have outraged public opinion in Russia.

Russia's new President Vladimir Putin (front) speaks during a reception, dedicated to the start of his term as Russia's new President, with his wife Lyudmila (R) and former President Dmitry Medvedev seen in the background, at the Kremlin in Moscow, May 7, 2012. REUTERS/Alexsey Druginyn/RIA Novosti/Pool

More than 60,000 Russian children have been adopted by foreigners, mostly Americans, since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, a touchy subject with the Russian authorities who favor domestic adoption.

“Not every international adoption ends happily,” the office of Pavel Astakhov, Russia’s Children’s Rights Commissioner, said in a statement. “According to official data only, 19 Russian children died at the hands of U.S. citizens over the last 10 years.”

Several high-profile cases in which Russian-born children have died in the United States after abuse by their new parents have generated headlines in Russia and been condemned by Russian politicians.

In 2010, a U.S. woman abandoned her adopted son and put him on a plane alone back to Russia.

Under the new agreement, foreign adoptions will be subject to stricter control by authorized agencies, and adopting families will be more thoroughly vetted and monitored.

The office of the Children’s Rights Commissioner said it would also seek information on all Russian-born children adopted in the United States.

In 2009, U.S. parents adopted 1,585 children from Russia, down from a peak of 5,863 in 2004.

Separately, Putin also signed another bilateral agreement with Washington easing visa restrictions, his press office said on Monday.

That agreement will allow tourists and business travelers from the United States and Russia to receive multiple entry visas with longer validity periods, the U.S. embassy in Moscow said.

Writing by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Andrew Osborn