Russian children’s rights ombudsman speaks candidly about his mission to abolish foreign adoption and end Russia’s role as an international “donor of orphans.”
Anna Nemtsova, special to RBTH
February 19, 2013
Russian children’s rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov, 47, is a man with a controversial mission: to end once and for all the American adoption of Russian children. In an interview with Anna Nemtsova, he said he wants to end foreign adoption entirely. Three years ago, when he was appointed ombudsman for children’s rights, he declared that foreign adoption was “shameful” for Russia. In early February, Astakhov was appointed adviser to the president.
Hot topic: Adoption Ban
Astakhov has had a diverse and storied legal career. In his past work as a defense lawyer, Astakhov frequently criticized the Russian court system. Later he gained more notoriety for being the star judge on a televised legal education show “The Hour of Judgment.”
His international family lives in Moscow and in France; he is married with three sons. His youngest was born in France and his oldest son studied in the United States and United Kingdom. When asked if he would consider adoption, Astakhov said, “That is very difficult; I have no time to see my own children.”
At the time the Russian government decided to ban U.S. adoption at the end of 2012, about 1,000 American families were in the midst of adoption proceedings. The new law was named after Dima Yakovlev, a toddler who died of heat stroke in Virginia, after his adoptive father left him in a parked car for many hours.
More than 60,000 American couples have adopted Russian orphans; 19 of the adopted children have died, some at the hands of their adoptive parents in the United States.
RBTH: One of the main arguments lawmakers made for banning adoption was that it had become impossible to monitor or control Russian orphans once they were in the United States. The owner of a ranch in Montana, Joyce Sterkel, told Kommersant newspaper that if you had asked her properly, she would have received you. Are you aware that she was upset that you referred to her ranch as “a prison for kids”?
P.A.: To be honest with you, I did not read the interview but I can imagine things she said to defend her reputation. A Russian consul visited her ranch in 2010 and saw 30 children including 10 Russian orphans living there. As far as I know, parents paid the ranch owner about $4,000 for every child. (more…)