Russia: US adoptions freeze to last for weeks

MOSCOW (AP) — All Russian adoptions to the United States will remain suspended until a new agreement is negotiated, which could take up to two months, the Kremlin's children's rights ombudsman said Monday.

Russia froze U.S. adoptions last week after a boy was put on a plane back to Russia by his adoptive American mother. The woman said she "no longer wishes to parent" Artyom Savelyev, who had just turned 8.

Talks on a new adoption agreement were supposed to have begun Monday but were postponed until next week after the volcanic ash prevented the U.S. delegation from flying to Moscow, the U.S. Embassy said in a statement.

Pavel Astakhov, the ombudsman, predicted an agreement would be signed within a couple of months.

"While we are working on the agreement, adoptions will be frozen," he told reporters.

The circumstances of the freeze remained unclear. The Education and Science Ministry, which overseas international adoptions, said Monday that it still had not received official notification.

The United States also has received no notification, but "it appears that the recent controversy has slowed the process down," the embassy statement said.

Astakhov declined to answer questions about who ordered the suspension of U.S. adoptions and when, saying no documents would be made public before Russia showed them to the U.S. delegation.

The freeze was announced Thursday by the Foreign Ministry spokesman in his weekly televised briefing. The ministry refused last week to provide further information, and a statement issued Monday did little to clarify the situation.

The ministry statement said the dispute could only be resolved through the signing of a bilateral agreement providing for greater monitoring and control over U.S. adoptions.

"If our partners show a willingness to sign such an agreement, this will help avoid a freeze of adoptions to the United States," it said. "So far the United States is not showing any interest in securing such an agreement."

Astakhov, however, said U.S. officials had shown a willingness to negotiate such an agreement.

The ombudsman also said that Artyom, the boy whose return led to the freeze, was expected Monday to leave the hospital where he has been undergoing medical checks since arriving in Russia on April 8. He will be placed in a foster family, most likely with the English-speaking family of a Russian diplomat, Astakhov said. He gave no further details.

More than 1,800 children from Russia were adopted in the United States last year, according to the Education and Science Ministry.