Russia: US adoptions freeze to last for weeks

Monday, April 19, 2010

MOSCOW (AP) -- All Russian adoptions to the United States will remain suspended until a new agreement is negotiated, which could take up to two months, the Kremlin's children's rights ombudsman said Monday.

Russia froze U.S. adoptions last week after a boy was put on a plane back to Russia by his adoptive American mother, Torry Hansen of Shelbyville. Hansen said she "no longer wishes to parent" Justin Hansen, also known as Artyom Savelyev, who had just turned 8.

A U.S. delegation had been expected to begin talks on a new adoption agreement in Moscow on Monday, but their flight from Washington was canceled due to volcanic ash. It was not immediately clear when the talks would start.

Pavel Astakhov, the ombudsman, predicted an agreement would be signed within a couple of months.

"While we are working on the agreement, adoptions will be frozen," he told reporters.

The circumstances of the freeze remained unclear. The Education and Science Ministry, which overseas international adoptions, said Monday that it still had not received official notification.

Astakhov declined to answer questions about who ordered the suspension of U.S. adoptions and when, saying no documents would be made public before Russia showed them to the U.S. delegation.

The freeze was announced Thursday by the Foreign Ministry spokesman in his weekly televised briefing. The ministry refused last week to provide further information, and a statement issued Monday did little to clarify the situation.

The ministry statement said the dispute could only be resolved through the signing of a bilateral agreement providing for greater monitoring and control over U.S. adoptions.

"If our partners show a willingness to sign such an agreement, this will help avoid a freeze of adoptions to the United States," it said. "So far the United States is not showing any interest in securing such an agreement."

Astakhov, however, said U.S. officials had shown a willingness to negotiate such an agreement.

More than 1,800 children from Russia were adopted in the United States last year, according to the Education and Science Ministry.