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Russians March Against Foreign Adoptions


Organizers of the March 2 rally were calling it an action "to protect children."
Organizers of the March 2 rally were calling it an action "to protect children."
Thousands of people have marched in Moscow to call on authorities to ban all foreign adoptions and demand the return of an adopted boy whose brother died in Texas.

The rally comes one day after a determination by Texas authorities that the death of Russian-born toddler Max Shatto was accidental.

Russian officials have stoked speculation that Shatto, born Maksim Kuzmin, was the victim of foul play.

Many Russians have cited the case as they dismiss criticism of Moscow's politically charged ban on U.S. adoptions, which was a response to U.S. legislation punishing Russia for perceived rights abuses in the Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act.

Max's biological half-brother, Kristopher, remains with his adoptive U.S. family.

Police estimated the turnout at the March 2 event in the Russian capital at around 12,000 people.

Irina Bergset, coordinator of the movement Russian Mothers, told media that the group also was demanding a “more thorough investigation” into Shatto's death.

Russian officials have accused the child's adoptive mother of drugging and "murdering" him. Texas sources have countered by questioning how Russian officials presumed to know details of the case that did not appear to match their own investigations.

State Duma deputy Aleksandr Karelin, who took part in the protest, said Russians can take care of their own children.

"We have the conditions here [to raise children], of course, and the kids should grow up in Russia, namely here," Karelin said. "And I am not just talking about reconstructing orphanages, but I am talking about creating the conditions for families to adopt. And I'm not just talking about those incentives and bonuses from the government, but rather about traditions and human values."
Three-year-old Max Shatto, born Maksim Kuzmin, before his death in January
Three-year-old Max Shatto, born Maksim Kuzmin, before his death in January

Americans have adopted more than 60,000 Russian children since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Organizers of the march have denied allegations some participants were coerced or paid to attend. One protester insisted something had to be done to avoid a repetition of such incidents.

"We are the activists. We are against violence against kids. And all of the ridiculousness [in the U.S.] is beyond my understanding. And the problems with the adoption of kids," the man, who gave his name as Dmitry, said. "So, in the future, we are going to have families, and I don't want this to reflect on our generation and on our kids. We need to do something so that these types of things don't repeat in the future. If it happens in the U.S., let's hope it won't spread all over the world."

U.S. authorities on March 1 ruled Max's death in January was "accidental."

He reportedly died when his mother briefly left him and his brother alone to go inside their home.

Texas authorities did not rule out possible charges in the case.

VISIT the Texas town at the center of the Max Shatto tragedy

Ector County District Attorney Bobby Bland told RFE/RL that preliminary autopsy results had indicated Max had bruises on several parts of his body and that they appeared to be self-inflicted. He also said no drugs were found in the boy’s system.

"We got the autopsy results and it was found, based on the examination of the doctors that did the autopsy, as well as [another] doctor we consulted, that the manner of death for this child, Max Shatto, was accidental," Bland said.

Bland told RFE/RL that Shatto died from a "lacerated artery" due to blunt force trauma in his abdomen.

He said the child suffered from a behavioral disorder and that the wound to his abdomen would be consistent with those suffered by children who injure themselves by accidents or in scuffles with other people.

Reporting from Texas and Washington by RFE/RL correspondent Richard Solash; with additional reporting by RFE/RL's Russian Service, Reuters, AFP, and ITAR-TASS
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