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Russia parliament passes anti-US adoption bill

Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP

A protester argues with police officers outside the Federation Council in Moscow on Wednesday. The poster held by the protester reads: "Children get frozen in the Cold War."

MOSCOW — Russia's upper house of parliament approved a bill on Wednesday that would prohibit Americans from adopting Russian children and impose other measures in retaliation for a U.S. law designed to punish Russians accused of human rights violations. 

The bill would also outlaw some U.S.-funded non-governmental organizations and impose visa bans and asset freezes on Americans accused of violating the rights of Russians abroad.

The bill was endorsed by the lower house last week and is now expected to be sent to President Vladimir Putin to sign.

Putin hasn't committed to signing the bill, but referred to it as a legitimate response to the new U.S. law.

It is one part of a larger measure by angry lawmakers retaliating against a recently signed U.S. law that calls for sanctions against Russians deemed to be human rights violators. 

The U.S. law is primarily intended to end Cold War-era trade restrictions and was hailed by U.S. businesses worried about falling behind in the race to win shares of Russia's more open market, but its human rights part has outraged Putin's government.

Dubbed the Magnitsky Act, the U.S. legislation is named for Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who was arrested by officials he accused of a $230-million tax fraud.

He was repeatedly denied medical treatment and in 2009 died after almost a year in jail after being severely beaten by guards.

Opportunity denied
Some top Russian officials, including the foreign minister, have spoken flatly against the Russian bill, arguing that the measure would be in violation with Russia's constitution and international obligations.

Earlier Wednesday, several protesters were detained outside the upper house as it prepared to make its decision.

Boy's Christmas wish: Adoption of little brother caught in US-Russia spat

"Children get frozen in the Cold War," one poster read.

Critics of the bill say it victimizes orphans by depriving them of an opportunity to escape often-dismal Russian orphanages.

Russian President Vladimir Putin claims the U.S. is "poisoning ties" between the two countries with a law that bans Russians who abuse human rights and is backing a Russian draft law banning adoption by Americans. NBCNews.com's Dara Brown reports.

Americans may lose right to adopt Russian kids

There are about 740,000 children without parental custody in Russia, according to UNICEF. More than 60,000 Russian children have been adopted in the United States in the past 20 years.

The Russian bill is named in honor of Dima Yakovlev, a Russian toddler who was adopted by Americans and then died in 2008 after his father left him in a car in broiling heat for hours.

See the US Action Plan on Children in Adversity

The father was found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter. Russian lawmakers argue that by banning adoptions to the U.S. they would be protecting children and encouraging adoptions inside Russia.

Russian children’s rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov told the Interfax news agency that 46 children who were about to be adopted by U.S. citizens would stay in Russia — despite court rulings in some of these cases authorizing the adoptions.

Astakhov also insisted that all adoptions would be halted once the bill is signed by Putin, but a senior lawmaker at the Federation Council insisted it cannot be enacted immediately.

Mikhail Margelov, chairman of the Council's foreign affairs committee, said that a bilateral Russian-U.S. agreement binds Russia to notify of a halt in adoptions 12 months in advance.

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