Russia probes whether adoptive parents in US are trafficking children
Authorities in Moscow say they are investigating whether Russian children adopted by US families are being illegally trafficked.
The probe comes in response to a Reuters report about how parents in the United States have used internet bulletin boards to rid themselves of children they regret adopting.
In a practice known as "private re-homing", people seeking to unload children, and adults seeking to take them, connect through online forums on Yahoo and Facebook, privately arranging custody transfers that can bypass government oversight and sometimes violate the law.
In a single Yahoo group examined, a child was offered to strangers on average once a week during a five-year period. At least 70 per cent of those children were listed as having been adopted from overseas, and 26 of them were said to come from Russia. Yahoo has taken down the group.
Russia's investigative committee said it would investigate whether any of the 26 cases violated Russian's human trafficking laws or were otherwise illegal.
"Investigators believe that illegal exchanges have been created in the United States on Yahoo and Facebook to carry out illegal transactions in terms of children adopted by American citizens," the statement said.
The Russian statement expressed concern about "sexual exploitation". The report described cases of adopted Russian-born children who were passed from home to home, including one girl who said she suffered sexual abuse.
The issue of adoption is caught up in the chilly relationship between Moscow and Washington. Moscow banned adoptions of Russian children by US families nearly a year ago, in a diplomatic row over a law passed by the US Congress that denied visas to Russians suspected of human-rights violations.
The Russian foreign ministry's human rights commissioner, Konstantin Dolgov, told the state-run news agency RIA that Moscow had informed Washington of the probe.
He said Moscow was demanding a "detailed and unbiased investigation" establishing who and where the children were, and that US authorities "hold liable those engaged in these illegal activities, those guilty of violating the rights of the Russian children".