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4.15.2010 Russia Suspends Adoptions by Americans

By Clifford J. Levy

MOSCOW — Russia formally announced on Thursday that it would suspend all adoptions of Russian children by Americans, responding to the case of a 7-year-old boy who was sent back to Moscow alone last week by his adoptive mother in Tennessee. The case of the boy, who was named Artyom in Russia before he was adopted last year, has caused widespread anger here, and Russian officials said new regulations had to be put in place before adoptions by Americans could proceed.

The announcement by the Russian Foreign Ministry gave no indication about how long the suspension would last. The State Department in Washington is sending a high-level delegation to Moscow to hold talks on reaching an agreement, and both countries have expressed hope that the matter can be resolved quickly.

“Future adoptions of Russian children by citizens of the United States, which are now suspended, are possible only if such an agreement is reached,” a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Andrei Nesterenko, said at a briefing on Thursday.

Officials at the United States Embassy in Moscow said they had not received official notification of a suspension and were seeking more information from their Russian counterparts.

Some United States officials said that Russia had not given formal notice of a suspension, and added that they would continue operating as if none had been put in place. But Russian officials said in interviews that no adoptions would be allowed for now. More than 250 American families have nearly completed the adoption process and are poised to pick up their Russian children, but their cases will not be allowed to conclude until the new rules are approved, Russian officials said.

In all, some 3,000 American families have begun the adoption process, according to the Joint Council on International Children’s Services. Russian officials said they would continue to accept applications and process paperwork from potential adoptive parents.

Russia was the third leading source of adoptive children in the United States in 2009, with 1,586, after China and Ethiopia, officials said. More than 50,000 Russian children have been adopted by United States citizens since 1991, according to the United States Embassy.

Artyom, who was named Justin by his adoptive American mother, arrived in Moscow last week after flying by himself from Washington. He presented the authorities with a note from his adoptive mother in which she said she could no longer handle him.

The mother, Torry Ann Hansen, a registered nurse from Shelbyville, Tenn., said the boy was “violent and has severe psychopathic issues.” She added that she “was lied to and misled by the Russian orphanage workers” about his troubles.

The authorities in the United States are now investigating her conduct.

Russian authorities, who now have custody of the boy, have said he behaves normally and have harshly criticized Ms. Hansen for sending him back.

Cases of children adopted from Russia being harmed in the United States have received intense publicity here. Fourteen Russian children have died of abuse or neglect at their hands of the adoptive American parents since 1996, Russian officials said last year.

Last Friday, the Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, calling Artyom’s case “the last straw” and said he was proposing the suspension.