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Russia

Russian President Backs U.S. Adoption Ban

Russian President Vladimir Putin gives his annual press conference in Moscow on December 20.
Russian President Vladimir Putin gives his annual press conference in Moscow on December 20.
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By RFE/RL
Russian President Vladimir Putin has tentatively backed a bill that would ban U.S. citizens from adopting Russian children.

The lower house of parliament, or State Duma, passed the bill in second reading on December 19.

The bill is a reaction to the U.S. Magnitsky Act, which imposes sanctions on Russians allegedly involved in human rights abuses.

Speaking on December 20 at the first presidential news conference of his third term, Putin called the Russian reaction appropriate.

"I understand that the State Duma's answer [to the U.S. law] was emotional but adequate," Putin said.

Putin added that he would have to see the exact language of the Russian bill before he reached a final conclusion.

To become law, the ban on adoptions would have to pass a third reading in the State Duma, then clear the upper house before going to the president for his signature.

The Magnitsky Act was signed into law last week by U.S. President Barack Obama.

Putin Says U.S. Human Rights Law Poisons Russia-U.S. Tiesi
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December 20, 2012
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on December 20 that a U.S. law that punishes Russians who abuse human rights is poisoning ties with Washington and signalled support for a retaliatory ban on Americans adopting Russian children. (Reuters video)
(WATCH: Putin speaks at a presidential news conference)

It is named after Sergei Magnitsky, a whistle-blowing Russian lawyer who died after being physically abused in a Russian jail in 2009.

Putin said the U.S. legislation "poisons" relations between Moscow and Washington.

He said U.S. lawmakers "are pointing fingers to some problems that we have. Thank you very much, we are aware of them ourselves. However, adoption of anti-Russian bills based on that is outrageous as well as completely unprovoked by us."

On December 19, police detained about 30 people who had gathered outside the Russian parliament to protest the proposed ban on the adoption of Russian children by Americans.

But at his press conference, Putin suggested most Russians would support the ban.

"The vast majority of Russian Federation citizens have a negative attitude toward adoption of our children by foreigners," he said.

"We ought to [adopt them] ourselves. We must stimulate the transfer of children who lost parental care or became orphans to local families."

However, earlier this week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said banning Americans from adopting Russian children would be "wrong."

'No Idea' What To Do About Georgia

At the same press conference on December 20, Putin said he had "no idea" how to deal with Tbilisi regarding Georgia's separatist territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

He said that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili "has led the situation into a dead-end. To be honest, I do not really understand how to get out of it.

"Russia cannot change its decision regarding the recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia -- we simply cannot do this by definition," he continued. "And Georgia cannot accept their independent status. I have no idea what's to be done here."

Putin said he generally saw "positive signals" from the new Georgian government and believed there are possibilities for improving economic cooperation.

"We honestly want to normalize our relations with Georgia, although, from the economic point of view, certainly, let's be frank, Georgia is much more interested in this than Russia," he said.

"However, we are not going to be taking an arrogant position and claim that we do not need it."

Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili has spoken of his desire to improve ties with Russia, where he made much of his vast fortune.

Russia recognized the Georgian territories as independent countries after the brief 2008 Georgia-Russia war.

Ukraine 'Made A Mistake' With Pipelines

Turning to another former Soviet neighbor, Putin said Ukraine made a "strategic and fundamental mistake" by not allowing Russia to lease Ukrainian gas-transportation infrastructure.

The Russian leader said Ukraine's refusal over many years pushed Russia to build its own pipelines and other infrastructure.

Putin cited Russia's Nord Stream pipeline, which exports gas to Western Europe, and its planned South Stream pipeline to Southern and Central Europe.

Because of Russia's current and planned gas pipelines, Putin said it was "not clear if the Ukrainian gas-transportation system has reasons to exist at all."

He said Russia wanted to avoid dependence on other countries to carry its gas exports.

Putin added that Russia was ready to continue a dialogue with Ukraine on energy prices and transportation.

Not Backing Assad 'At Any Cost'

Putin also said Moscow's primary concern in Syria was to prevent civil war, not saving the regime of President Bashar al-Assad "at any cost."

Putin said Moscow feared a scenario in which the current opposition and government forces would just swap roles and continue to fight "forever." 

The Russian president said the Syrians should first reach on agreement on "how to live in the future and how to ensure people's security and participation in government," before deciding to change the current system.

He said it was up to Syrian people to decide what happens next in their country.

Russia and China have blocked efforts at the United Nations to press Assad to end the ongoing violence.

Praising Growth

Putin began the press conference with a speech praising Russia's economic growth, even though it was slightly lower than the previous year.

But he said that the results were good, considering problems that have been dragging on the world economy.

The president talked about other domestic issues, including rising birthrates, before taking questions from reporters.

Putin was reelected to an unprecedented third term in March after serving the previous four years as prime minister.

With reporting by ITAR-TASS, AP, and AFP

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