Russia halts all adoptions to U.S.

Russia has frozen all adoptions to the United States, the Foreign Ministry announced Thursday as national outrage simmered over a towheaded 7-year-old boy sent alone on a plane back to Moscow by his adoptive mother.

A U.S. delegation is due in Moscow within days to discuss the crisis. Russia is pressing the United States to sign an agreement that would more carefully screen would-be parents and monitor the families after their return to the United States, Foreign Ministry officials have said.

“Russia believes that only an agreement which will contain effective tools for Russian and U.S. officials to monitor the living conditions of adopted Russian children will ensure that recent tragedies in the United States will not be repeated,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said at a briefing Thursday.

U.S. officials denied that adoptions had been suspended.

Russia has halted the work of World Assn. for Children and Parents, the adoption agency that paired the child with the Tennessee mother.

Ever since the child turned up waiflike in a Moscow airport last week with nothing to explain himself but a letter from his adoptive mother calling him “mentally unstable,” anger has boiled in Russia.

President Dmitry Medvedev told ABC News that rejecting the child was “a monstrous deed . . . not only immoral but also against the law.”

The boy is in a Moscow hospital, where doctors reportedly have found nothing aberrant in his condition. Just seven months after adopting the boy, 33-year-old nurse Torry Hansen wrote that he was violent, unstable and “psychopathic,” and that she had been misled by the Russian orphanage workers who had vouched for his mental health.

It is not yet clear whether Hansen will face charges for sending the child back to Russia on his own.

The boy known as Artyom has become something of a cause celebre in Moscow, with multiple Russian families stepping forward and offering to adopt him.

But many more children continue to languish. Russia is home to more than 1 million “orphans,” many of whom have a surviving parent who has been deemed unfit.

Last year, 1,586 Russian children were adopted by Americans, a number topped only by adoptions from China and Ethiopia, according to State Department figures.

The adoption of children by Americans is a deeply sensitive issue in Russia, provoking a mix of protectiveness, wounded nationalism and distrust of the West. For many Russians, the country’s inability to care for all its children is yet another mark of shameful post-Soviet decay.

Cases of adopted children being harmed, or even killed, in the United States are reported in the state news media with grisly detail and an overtone of outrage.

More than a dozen Russian children have been killed by their adoptive American parents since 1996. With each death, public outrage has swelled among Russians.

This week, the speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament called for a moratorium on all adoptions to foreigners.

“A special agreement should be signed guaranteeing that the state maintains proper control of adopted children,” Sergei Mironov told reporters.