When the Russian Parliament in its infinite pettiness decided to use orphans to settle a score or two with the United States and ban the adoption of Russian children by American families, most people registered a level of indignation somewhere between, "Sigh, the world can be cruel" and, "Jesus, Russian Parliament — do you think you're invisible or something?" As proof that ordinary Russians don't appreciate their government playing politics with the country's most vulnerable citizens, thousands of Russians marched on Sunday against the adoption ban, condemning political leaders with chants of "Take your hands off children,"and posters showing the faces of politicians stamped with the word "Shame."
The event was called a "March Against Scoundrels", and it sought to draw attention to how uncool it was of President Vladimir Putin to approve the Parliament's adoption ban as part of what the New York Times describes as "a broader law retaliating against the United States for the so-called Magnitsky Act, an effort to punish Russian officials accused of human rights violations." The ban, though, has deeper retaliatory roots. The Times explains that Russian leaders have long complained that sentences handed down to American adoptive parents convicted of abusing or neglecting their Russian children have been too lenient (the ban was named after Dmitri Yakovlev, a toddler who died of heatstroke in Virginia in 2008 after his adoptive father left him in parked car for nine hours).
That admittedly disheartening story, however, has not convinced many Russians that the government is acting in the best interests of orphaned children. Of the 650,000-plus Russian children who live in foster care, about 120,000 are eligible for adoption, though, since many of them are sick and disabled, the likelihood that they'll all find homes is pretty low. Those odds got worse when Parliament passed the American adoption ban, though, to be be fair, a contingent of high-ranking officials dissented from the ban's passage. Moreover, a December poll released by the Public Opinion Foundation showed that only a 56-percent majority of Russians approved of the adoption ban, probably because it's difficult, no matter how much bad blood exists between nations, to politicize the plight of the helpless and expect broad popular support.