Russian President Vladimir Putin on
Friday signed a law banning the adoption of the country's children by
US citizens, the Itar Tass news agency reported.
The law is a retaliatory measure against a US law which seeks to sanction Russian officials suspected of involvement in human rights violations and which is named after a whistle-blowing Russian lawyer who died in jail in 2009.
Putin's signature came on the same day that a Moscow court acquitted the only official charged in connection with the death of the 37-year-old lawyer, Sergey Magnitsky.
Citing the presidential press service, the Itar Tass report said that Putin also signed a decree on measures to protect orphans and abandoned children.
The United States denounced the move as politically motivated and said it would reduce the possibilities for adoption of children now in institutions, State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said.
"We deeply regret Russia's passage of a law ending inter-country adoptions between the United States and Russia and restricting Russian civil society organizations that work with American partners," he said. "American families have adopted over 60,000 Russian children over the past 20 years, and the vast majority of these children are now thriving thanks to their parents' loving support."
He expressed particular concern over the threat that adoptions currently in progress could be halted, calling on Moscow to allow the adoption of children who had already met the US families who hope to take them in, and pointing to the need to implement a bilateral adoption agreement in place since last month.
The bill was unanimously passed by the upper house of parliament on Wednesday, and earlier by the lower house, the Duma, amid heightened tensions between Russia and the United States.
Russia had protested the US Magnitsky Act, with Putin last week calling it "an unfriendly act towards the Russian Federation" that "poisons our relations."
Russian rights activists have condemned the anti-US bill and protested outside the Duma. The Orthodox Church has supported the bill.
Friday's court ruling said that the deputy head of Butyrka prison, Dmitry Kratov, was not guilty of neglect and there was no connection between Kratov's actions and the death of Magnitsky.
Magnitsky's family is to appeal the verdict, lawyer Nikolai Gorokhov said. "We are strongly dissatisfied with the verdict, though it was expected. We played the passive role in this trial," he told Itar Tass.
The US investment company Hermitage Capital, for which Magnitsky worked, has spoken of a politically motivated judgement.
Civil rights activist Valery Borshchev said "Kratov and the others are guilty," and spoke of the "torture-like" detention conditions.
The lawyer, who was imprisoned on tax evasion charges in November 2008, had been suffering from untreated pancreatitis when he died a year later. Prison officials said he died of heart failure.
But an inquiry ordered by the Kremlin's human rights council alleged that he had been badly beaten hours before his death, according to Ria Novosti.
He was arrested after exposing alleged tax fraud worth hundreds of millions of dollars involving companies linked to the Kremlin.
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