The controversial death of a Russian adoptee in the United States will be one of the key themes for discussion when US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov meet in Germany next week, a Foreign Ministry official said on Thursday.
The Russian Foreign Ministry’s commissioner for human rights, Konstantin Dolgov, also said Lavrov would broach the wider issue of the safety of Russian adoptees in the United States at their meeting in Berlin on February 26.
Russia’s children’s rights ombudsman, Pavel Astakhov, tweeted on Monday that three-year-old Maxim Kuzmin had been murdered by his adoptive US mother. He also said the child had been given powerful “psychotropic substances” and badly beaten before his death, which reportedly occurred on January 21.
The US authorities have not yet completed the investigation into the child’s death.
The accusation caused a storm of outrage in Russia, with nationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the leader of the LDPR party, alleging that Americans adopted Russian children to “torment” them, in comments aired on state-run television earlier this week.
“Unfortunately, the death of a Russian child was not a tragedy for US congressmen or senators,” said Olga Batulina, deputy head of a parliamentary committee on family, women and child welfare, before lawmakers observed a minute of silence in honor of Kuzmin on Tuesday.
“I doubt it was a tragedy for anyone in the United States,” added Batulina, a member of the ruling United Russia party.
Russian officials have criticized investigations into the deaths of Russian adoptees in the United States and alleged that courts hand down softer punishments for crimes against children from Russia.
Another member of the parliamentary committee, Yelena Mizulina, said on Thursday that 300 children adopted by Russian families died every year.
“The number of criminal investigations opened as a result of the deaths of children handed over to [Russian] families is minimal,” she said, citing committee data.
Mizulina said just two criminal cases had been opened in 2009 to 2011, a period that saw some 900 adopted children die in Russian families.
“We tried to find out what the causes of their deaths were, but no one followed up,” added Mizulina, a member of A Just Russia opposition party.
According to US State Department figures, more than 60,000 Russian children have been adopted by Americans over the past two decades. Of those, Russian officials say 20 were killed as a result of their American parents’ actions.
The incident also fuelled a row over a recent Kremlin ban on US nationals adopting Russian children, implemented hot on the heels of a law passed in the United States that introduces sanctions against Russian officials suspected of human rights abuses.