Russia 'concerned' over Max Shatto Texas death ruling

District Attorney Bobby Bland: "The manner of the death was accidental"

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Russia's foreign ministry has expressed concern after US authorities ruled the death of an adopted three-year-old boy was an accident.

Max Shatto, adopted from a Russian orphanage, died on 21 January, shortly after a Russian ban on US adoptions.

Four Texas doctors reviewing the case found that bruises on his body were self-inflicted, officials said, adding the investigation was continuing.

Thousands of marchers in Moscow called for a halt to all foreign adoptions.

Police put the number of protesters in the centre of the city at 12,000, Russian media reported.

The rally on Saturday, involving pro-Kremlin activists, came two months after tens of thousands of people joined a demonstration against the ban on US adoptions of Russian orphans.

'Torn artery'

Max Shatto, born Maksim Kuzmin, and his younger brother Kristopher were adopted from an orphanage in north-west Russia last year by Alan and Laura Shatto, who live in Gardendale, Texas.

Max and Kristopher Shatto, previously known as Maksim and Kirill Kuzmin Max Shatto (L), and his brother Kristopher, were adopted from the same orphanage

Laura Shatto said she had found him unconscious outside the family's home and he died later in hospital.

When he died, Russia's children's commissioner Pavel Astakhov alleged he had been murdered by his adoptive mother.

But the Shattos' lawyer said the toddler had suffered from behavioural issues and occasionally butted his head on objects or other people.

According to preliminary results of a post mortem examination released on Friday, the child died accidentally from a torn artery in his abdomen and had bruises consistent with injuring himself.

"I had four doctors agree that this is the result of an accident, District Attorney Bobby Bland said. "We have to take that as fact."

Start Quote

Russian children's commissioner Pavel Astakhov

The triumph of justice?”

End Quote Pavel Astakhov Russian children's commissioner

No drugs or medicines had been found in his body and the coroner said he had a mental disorder that caused him to hurt himself.

The Russian foreign ministry said "it is with concern that Moscow has studied reports that, according to an official theory... Maksim Kuzmin died 'accidentally from a torn artery in his abdomen'".

In the statement, the foreign ministry drew attention to the lack of medicines found in his body, even though the adoptive parents said they had been treating him with "a strong psychotropic medication".

'Big politics'

Russia's investigations committee has asked the US authorities to provide documents surrounding the case, including a report by forensic pathologists, as part of its own criminal investigation, Interfax news agency reports.

Mr Astakhov also questioned the Texas authorities' findings, going on Twitter on Saturday to describe the boy as a "victim of big politics". "The triumph of justice?" he tweeted.

However, he told Ekho Moskvy Radio that the results were still preliminary and the Texas authorities were still "considering the possibility of instituting charges over negligent treatment of the child and involuntary manslaughter".

Last month, Maz Shatto's mother Yulia Kuzmina, went on Russian state TV to complain that she had no idea her children had been taken to the US. She said she wanted to raise her surviving son, although it later emerged she was a recovering alcoholic.

President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told independent Russian TV channel Rain on Saturday that diplomats had taken initial steps towards bringing Kristopher back to Russia, but he conceded that the adoption had been lawful.

Max Shatto's death increased tensions between Moscow and the US, which were already high after the Russian ban on US adoptions.

The adoption bill was introduced in response to the US Magnitsky Act, which blacklisted Russian officials accused of human rights abuses.

It was named after an anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in prison in 2009, aged 37.

He was detained on suspicion of tax evasion after reporting what he described as a web of corruption involving Russian tax officials.

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