MOSCOW — Russia's ombudsman for children's rights sought on Thursday to reassure American would-be adoptive parents that they will be allowed to take their children back to the United States. But some Americans with court rulings in their favor say they're still in legal limbo.
A Russian law banning adoptions by U.S. citizens was rushed through parliament in December, and sped to President Vladimir Putin's desk in less than 10 days in retaliation over a U.S. law calling for sanctions on Russians identified as human-rights violators.
Tens of thousands of people rallied in central Moscow on Sunday to protest the law, which the demonstrators said victimizes children to make a political point.
All such adoptions must be approved by a Russian court, and U.S. families hoping to adopt 52 children had won such rulings before the ban went into effect. But two of these families have told The Associated Press that authorities in Russia are still refusing to turn over the children.
Children's rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov said Thursday that Russia would honor the court decisions but did not elaborate on the timeline or say what the families should do now. "All the children who have been approved to be adopted will be able to leave for the U.S.," he said.
Astakhov vehemently defended the new law, saying that it would not be revoked "however big the protests are."
Dozens of American families are in legal limbo because of the ban.
Brian and Rebecca Preece and Jeana Bonner, whose adoption of children with Down syndrome had received court approval, have been in Moscow for days, but officials this week refused to turn over children to them, citing the new law.
Astakhov on Thursday blamed local officials for the bureaucratic cul-de-sac that's been created and quoted his conversation with them. "What are you doing?" he said. "You're making a scandal. There are court decisions in place — go and enforce them."
But Brian Preece, who is waiting to adopt a 4-year-old boy, told the AP on Thursday that they have still not received any news from Russian authorities. "They've been quiet to us," he said.
The Russian government says there are 654,000 children without parental custody in Russia and 105,000 of them live in orphanages.