by Rupa Shenoy
ST. PAUL, Minn. — On the same day that thousands of people marched through Moscow to protest Russia's new law banning Americans from adopting Russian children, about a dozen Minnesota families concerned about the ban's impact met with U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar on Sunday to discuss how they might be affected by the new law.
President Vladimir Putin and members of Russia's parliament overwhelmingly voted for the law last month in response to a recently passed U.S. law that places sanctions on Russians who violate human rights. The ban would go into effect in a year.
Klobuchar has sent a letter to the State Department urging officials to process pending adoptions before the ban takes effect. The DFL senator told parents at the Children's Home Society and Family Services in St Paul today that she would take more steps to help them.
"I'm going to be meeting with the Russian ambassador with a group of senators hopefully within the next few weeks so the Russian ambassador understands this is a major issue for United States senators, for the president, for the state department. The other thing we'll do is continue to put public pressure on. I'm going to give a speech on the Senate floor, show the pictures of these kids, tell their stories," Klobuchar said.
Andover residents Rachel and Ben Minx were among the families who gathered at the Children's Home Society and Family Services in St Paul to speak with Klobuchar. The Minxes have been waiting since May 2010 to adopt two girls from Russia. Rachel Minx said Klobuchar's interest gives her hope.
"This is bringing I guess to light a situation that we've been dealing with for three years. I feel like it's finally coming to a head and there's people that are at least talking about it and it's being brought to the surface," Rachel Minx said.
Russia's adoption ban was retaliation for a new U.S. law targeting Russians accused of human rights abuses. It also addresses long-brewing resentment in Russia over the 60,000 Russian children who have been adopted by Americans in the past two decades, 19 of whom have died.
Cases of Russian children dying or suffering abuse at the hands of their American adoptive parents have been widely publicized in Russia, and the law banning adoptions was called the Dima Yakovlev bill after a toddler who died in 2008 when he was left in a car for hours in broiling heat.
"Yes, there are cases when they are abused and killed, but they are rare," said Sergei Udaltsov, who heads a leftist opposition group. "Concrete measures should be taken (to punish those responsible), but our government decided to act differently and sacrifice children's fates for its political ambitions."
Those opposed to the adoption ban accuse Putin's government of stoking anti-American sentiments in Russian society in an effort to solidify support among its base, the working-class Russians who live in small cities and towns and who get their news mainly from Kremlin-controlled television.