Russia's lower house of parliament has approved in the second reading a bill that would ban U.S. citizens from adopting Russian children.
The bill was proposed in response to U.S. legislation that imposes sanctions on Russians allegedly involved in human rights abuses.
The Magnitsky Act was signed into law last week by U.S. President Barack Obama. It is named after Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian whistle-blowing lawyer who was physically abused in prison and died in detention in 2009.
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.
Police on December 19 detained about 30 people who had gathered outside the Russian parliament to protest the proposed ban.
State Duma Deputy Ilya Ponomaryov of the opposition A Just Russia party harshly criticized the bill.
"This is an outrageous, despicable bill, and it is absolutely asymmetrical," Ponomaryov told Reuters on December 19.
"The Duma has come to the defense of corrupt Russian officials, and it has done it in the most exploitative way: by bringing children into this matter."
Government Uneasy With Ban
Some officials have also voiced unease about the proposed ban on adoptions, which Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov this week described as "wrong."
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said foreign adoptions were a sign of Russia's indifference to its orphans. He did not say whether he supported the Duma-proposed ban.
"All of us -- government officials and civil society, including public organizations and political parties -- are responsible for the situation of orphans in our country," Medvedev said on December 19.
"It is we who bear that responsibility, and not some foreigners."
President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, described the lawmakers' initiative as "tough and emotional" and said the Kremlin's position was more "restrained."
But lawmakers voted overwhelmingly in support of the ban and for another measure that would bar Russian nonprofit groups that receive funds from the United States.
The bill is expected to go to a third and final reading on December 21.
In an e-mailed statement, the U.S. State Department told RFE/RL, "Each year thousands of children find loving, nurturing homes through intercountry adoptions and the lives of thousands of American families have been enriched by welcoming Russian adoptees into their homes."
The statement said Washington "continues to work closely with Russian authorities on intercountry-adoption issues."
With reporting by AP, Interfax, Reuters, and BBC Russian