More than 32,000 electronic signatures have been added to an online petition urging the U.S. government to impose sanctions on Russian lawmakers supporting a bill that would ban the adoption of Russian children by Americans.
urges the White House to add the names of legistlators supporting the bill to the list of Russians facing sanctions under the recently adopted Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act.
The White House promises to respond to all petitions that gather more than 25,000 signatures within 30 days of being posted. However, the president is not obligated to take any action.
The petition is being actively promoted on Russian social media sites, and almost all the signatures most likely are those of Russian citizens.
Activist Mikhail Shneider wrote on his Facebook page earlier on December 23:
"The signatures mean that the president is obliged to accept any petition that is signed by at least 25,000 people in 30 days. We have gathered that many in one day.... We continue collecting. There are 40,320 minutes until January 20 [when 30 days expires]. We are now gathering between 30 and 35 signatures a minute. By January 20, we could collect more than 1 million signatures."
The record for signatures on a White House petition so far is around 241,000.
Vyacheslav Nikonov, deputy chairman of the Russian Duma's Committee for International Affairs and a member of the ruling United Russia party, told Interfax on December 23 that any move to add lawmakers to the U.S. sanctions list would produce a harsh response in Russia.
"This may be the first case in history when the issue of sanctions against lawmakers in a foreign country would be raised on such a scale," Nikonov was quoted as saying.
The Russian political opposition and much of the public have been outraged by the bill, which passed the Duma last week. Opponents have demonstrated outside the Duma and have charged that lawmakers are putting their own interests ahead of the needs of Russian orphans.
Mikhail Fedotov, head of the presidential Human Rights Council, said on December 23 that the Russian legislature should drop the anti-adoption measure and called on the public not to "fan anti-American or anti-Russian hysteria.
Veronika Krashennikova, general director of the Institute of Foreign Political Studies and Initiatives in Moscow, told ITAR-TASS on December 23 that she does not think the United States would ever consider adding all Russian lawmakers to the sanctions list. However, she said "it is obvious that the information-propaganda campaign [against Russia] is gaining momentum with each new day."
She added that she believes "radical circles" in the United States, supported by the Russian diaspora, are responsible for the petition.
The Duma passed the anti-adoption bill on December 21. The Federation Council is expected to vote on the bill on December 26.
President Vladimir Putin has spoken in favor of the measure, but has not said for certain that he would sign it.