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Speech of and answer to the question by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the “government hour” at the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation regarding adoption of children

22-03-2013, 17:52

Dear deputies,

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs together with the Ministry of Education and Science, as a head government agency, is actively working on the problems our children face when they are adopted by foreign citizens.

In accordance with the Family Code of the Russian Federation, consulate employees abroad keep account of minor Russian citizens who were adopted by Russian citizens who are constantly residing abroad, or by foreign citizens or persons without citizenship. These data are updated on-line, however, not all adopters submit a request to register their child with the consulate. Therefore, we are currently including the request concerned into our agreements regarding cooperation in the sphere of international adoption we conclude with foreign countries.

Russian foreign representative offices informs the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Education and Science of Russia about all cases of the violation of rights and rightful interests of adopted children and immediately start dealing with practical steps to clarify what is going on with the specific child.

The situation becomes complicated, because after moving, for example, to the USA the child is almost always and immediately admitted to citizenship and his foster parents give him an American name. Therefore, even when the information about incidents appears in mass media, we cannot understand by the surname that the adopted child is from Russia. We are currently working on the creation of a database of all adopted Russians. We sent a request concerned to the US Administration and will seek a response.

My colleagues already told today about some egregious cases, including with the deceased M.Kuzmin, when the American court found that it was not his parents’ fault, but the boy inflicted deadly injuries himself. Despite multiple requests we have still not been provided respective documents related to the circumstances of the death of the boy, including the results of a post-mortem examination. While we do have the right to study these documents, first of all, in accordance with the bilateral agreement about mutual legal aid in criminal affairs of 1999 between Russia and the USA.

In parallel, we seek from federal and local US authorities to provide us access to the younger brother of Maxim – Kyril who was also adopted by the same family. We wish to understand what conditions he is currently living in. It is important for the examination of the issue (we are currently dealing with it) of his return to Russia.

Another case is Zhivodvorovi siblings (two boys and two girls). According to the information we have received, they are maltreated. US federal authorities do not provide us documents claiming that the investigation has not completed yet. We turned directly to the authorities of the State of Wisconsin. They provided us an incomplete set of documents, however the information we have received clearly indicates that the adopted children were systematically subjected to physical violence and psychological pressure on behalf of their adopters. They were placed into foster families, are currently attending a psychological rehabilitation course, resumed their studies. We will seek that the authorities of the district concerned hold their adopters criminally liable as soon as possible.

I wish to note that despite the fact that the agreement with the USA in the sphere of international adoption will be terminated from 1 January 2014, we intend to continue monitoring of the condition of the children from Russia, using mechanisms of bilateral consulate convention of 1964. We will continue to insist on receiving from the U.S. Department of State of the information about the conditions of living of the Russian children, including those who were adopted by American citizens before the entry into force of the above mentioned agreement.

This 21 February an extended session of the Committee for Family, Women and Children Affairs was held in the State Duma, based on the results of which we attempted an additional interposition before the American party to get the data about the conditions of living of all the children provided to the Russian party.

I touched on these as well as other aspects related to this problem during my meetings with the new US Secretary of State John Kerry. He assured that he understands that it is a real rather than a far-fetched problem, and will make everything possible to have full transparency and cooperation in this sphere. We will see how this political signal moves to the level of executors.

We conduct an explanatory work with American legislators through the Embassy of Russia in Washington. As contacts with them show, only few of them understand the problem in the sphere of adoption in the USA to the very depth, and not only international, but also with adoption of American children by Americans.

We deem it expedient to concentrate our efforts on the extension of the legal framework allowing to protect the rights of Russian minor citizens abroad more effectively. Russia acceded to the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and the Convention on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Co-operation in respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children developed within the framework of the Hague Conference on Private International Law.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs together with the Ministry of the Interior of Russia submitted to the Government of the Russian Federation draft documents required for the ratification of the Faculty Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child related to child trafficking, child prostitution and child pornography, and the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse.

We pay special attention to the foreign policy monitoring of the process of conclusion of bilateral agreements. The Ministry of Education and Science is dealing with it as a head government authority, and we actively participate in this work. We already have two effective agreements with Italy and France envisaging a strict control of the life of our children abroad. They specifically formalize obligations of foreign partners to register the children within Russian consulate institutions, to regularly submit to Russian regional bodies reports about conditions of life and rearing of adopted children, to obligatorily receive consent of Russian competent authorities to a repeated adoption of a child. I would like to highlight that in accordance with provisions of the agreement adopted children keep Russian citizenship when they get citizenship of a foreign country. This allows us to protect and patronize them more effectively.

We are currently continuing our negotiations about conclusion of respective agreements with a whole range of countries. The situation has advanced most with Spain. We had several negotiation rounds with Israel and Ireland. We are working on this issue with Slovenia, New Zealand, Malta, Great Britain and Cyprus.

We certainly deem it necessary to pay particular attention to toughening the selection of candidates for adoption in general. Complex measures are required here. Russian court authorities must examine applicants for adoption more carefully. In particular, we need to take into account that the forthcoming legalization of same-sex marriages in France brings a new element to the situation with adoption of children. Therefore, we need to increase vigilance when selecting potential adopters in accordance with the concept of family couples set forth in Russian laws and regulations. At the same time, we need to raise the bar of requirements for the agencies dealing with adoption.

Question: Texas Authorities refused to provide Russia information about the case of Maxim Kuzmin claiming that, firstly, disclosure of information is contrary to local laws, and, secondly, the cases that might be related to violence against children shall be off the record. How will the Ministry of Foreign Affairs act to conduct a fair investigation in the case of Maxim Kuzmin? We are interested in specific steps of the Ministry, the mechanism of prosecution of the Russian position in this issue.

Sergey Lavrov: I repeat, we did not accept the fact that they refused to provide us the documents disclosing the conditions of death of Maxim Kuzmin, including the results of the post-mortem examination. We have sent a request to the U.S. Department of State, but we also work with authorities of the state. The Department of State has primary responsibility. First of all, the agreement between Russia and the USA about cooperation in the sphere of adoption will have been in force for a year after its denunciation, i.e. till 1 January 2014. Secondly, we have an agreement about the provision of mutual legal aid in criminal matters. We have fully triggered this instrument. We insist on provision of exhaustive information required to us to decide in our own investigation almost every day.

Thus, I may assure you that there is a mechanism based on these two legal instruments. In practice, consulate employees deal with everyday contacts with American authorities on the federal and state level based on this mechanism.


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