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Russia won't implement adoption ban until next year

| Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013, 9:26 p.m.

MOSCOW — The Kremlin announced suddenly on Thursday that a new law banning adoptions by Americans would not go into effect for a year, as criticism of the measure galvanizes the flagging opposition here.

The move brings new hope to Americans whose efforts to adopt Russian children were cut short by enactment of the law in late December, but it is not clear what practical effect the delay will have. A protest against the law is planned for Sunday in Moscow.

A bilateral adoption agreement between Russia and the United States that was reached just last year remains in force, Dmitri Peskov, the main Kremlin spokesman, told the RIA Novosti news agency on Thursday. He pointed out that the agreement requires 12 months' notice for either side to withdraw. Russia, he said, delivered that notice to the U.S. Embassy on Jan. 1, although until now it has been portrayed as an immediate cancelation.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the United States did not yet know what the announcement means for adoptions already in progress. “We are very hopeful that in the spirit of the original agreement and out of humanitarian concern that we will be able to work through those cases that have been begun,” she said.

As Russians return from their long New Year's break, it has become clear that the adoption issue has struck a deep chord here and energized a dispirited opposition. The law was intended as a snub to the United States, but many here say its primary victims are Russian orphans.

Evidence of the nasty and manipulative nature of the debate over adoption flared up Thursday in Chelyabinsk, in Russia's Ural Mountains, when a news website reported that a 14-year-old orphan, Maxim Kargapoltsev, had written President Vladimir Putin asking to be allowed to join his new family, Mil and Dianna Wallen, in Woodstock, Va.

The Web post brought stinging denunciations from supporters of the adoption ban, who called it a provocation. Yekaterina Lakhova, one of the sponsors of the ban in parliament, called it an “attack against Russia.”

As it turns out, there probably was no letter. Maxim had told a website reporter in December that he wished he could leave for his new home, and the site apparently decided to crank the story up a bit. That's according to the director of the orphanage where Maxim lives and a local reporter, Inna Kumeiko, who met with Maxim on Thursday morning.

Maxim couldn't be reached from Moscow, but he made clear in a social media post Wednesday night that's exactly how he feels.

“I am very sorry,” he wrote, “that the law will not let me have a very good family in the future, the family that I have known and loved and whom I have become attached to.

“I like my motherland, but I would like to have a family in the U.S.”

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