Magnitsky row: Putin backs Russian ban on US adoptions

 
President Vladimir Putin, 20 Dec 12 President Putin said the US should address violations in its own legal system

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has defended a ban on Americans adopting Russian children, which has been proposed by the Russian parliament.

He said the bill, a response to the US Magnitsky Act which bars entry to Russian alleged human rights violators, was "appropriate".

Russian officials, he said, were not allowed to sit in on US cases involving the mistreatment of Russian children.

In a marathon news conference, Mr Putin also restated his views on Syria.

He also spoke about relations with fellow ex-Soviet states Ukraine and Georgia and sought to dispel speculation about his health.

'Anti-Russian law'

A number of cases where Russian children have died or been mistreated at the hands of US adoptive parents have made headlines in Russia.

Mr Putin said he still needed to read the Russian bill in detail, though he backed it in principle.

The rate of adoption in Russia is low. Some 3,400 Russian children were adopted by foreign families in 2011, nearly a third of them by Americans. The number of children adopted by Russian citizens was 7,416.

Americans have adopted around 60,000 Russian children over the past 20 years, with 19 recorded deaths among them. Over the same period, 1,500 orphans died in Russian adoptive families, according to the Russian prosecutor-general's office.

"The State Duma's response may be emotional, but I consider it to be appropriate," Mr Putin said, referring to Russia's lower house.

He called the US Magnitsky Act "unfriendly". The act replaced the US Jackson-Vanik amendment, which dated back to the Cold War.

"They have replaced one anti-Soviet, anti-Russian law with another... That is very bad. This, of course, in itself poisons our relations," Mr Putin said.

He said the US had its own human rights abuses to address, pointing to mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo in Cuba and Abu Ghraib in Iraq.

Caution on Syria

Moscow, Mr Putin said, had "practically no interests" in Syria but did not want to see "mistakes" made in Libya repeated. Libya, he said, was "falling apart" as a result.

In 2011 Libyan rebels supported by Western air strikes ousted Col Muammar Gaddafi. The campaign was backed by a UN resolution, but Russia, a longstanding ally of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, has blocked a similar resolution on Syria.

Vladimir Putin: "Agreements based on a military victory can't be efficient"

Mr Putin said Syrians themselves needed to agree how to live in the future, and a military intervention would be "inappropriate".

Asked about relations with Georgia, Mr Putin said he had seen "positive signals, very restrained so far" from the new coalition government led by Bidzina Ivanishvili, which defeated allies of President Mikheil Saakashvili at elections.

Russia, however, would not revoke its recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states, Mr Putin said.

Asked to explain a last-minute decision by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to cancel a trip to Moscow on Tuesday, Mr Putin said there were some economic problems to be resolved such as disagreement over import quotas.

But he denied that at issue was Ukraine's reluctance to join a Moscow-led Customs Union linking Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Mr Putin insisted that Russia's long-term gas contract with Ukraine was not in dispute now but he said Ukraine had made a "strategic mistake" by refusing to lease its gas pipeline network to Gazprom and other European operators.

He pointed out that Russia was now developing gas export infrastructure outside Ukraine: the Nord Stream pipeline in the Baltic, Blue Stream in the Black Sea and the recent launch of the South Stream undersea pipeline project, which will deliver Russian gas directly to the Balkans.

'Dream on'

Mr Putin, 60, dismissed media reports about the state of his health.

"I can give a traditional answer to the question about my health: dream on," he said.

Last month there were reports that Mr Putin, a keen sportsman, was suffering from a bad back.

He dismissed suggestions he was "authoritarian".

"Had I considered a totalitarian or authoritarian system preferable, I would simply have changed the constitution, it was easy enough to do," he said.

 

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