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Autopsy report on boy who died in Texas triggers protest in Russia

| Saturday, March 2, 2013, 6:36 p.m.
Demonstrators hold portraits of adopted Russian children who died in the United States during a huge rally in Moscow on Saturday, March 2. AP

MOSCOW — Many Russians remained suspicious on Saturday about the circumstances surrounding the death in Texas of an adopted 3-year-old despite an autopsy report that determined he died accidentally.

Max Shatto, who was born Maxim Kuzmin in Russia, died Jan. 21 from a torn artery in the abdomen, officials said at a news conference Friday in Odessa, Texas. Four pathologists — three employed by the county medical examiner and one independent — agreed the death was an accident, Ector County District Attorney Bobby Bland told reporters.

Pro-Kremlin groups rallied in central Moscow to back the ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian children and call for more adoptions by Russian parents. Protesters held signs with pictures of adopted Russian children who died in the United States in recent years and wore ribbons in the colors of the Russian flag with slogans demanding Max's half-brother Kirill be returned to Russia.

“Today, people are telling us that Maxim supposedly maimed himself to death with a blunt instrument and damaged his own internal organs. That's a slap in the face of our country and our people,” Irina Bergset, one of the march's organizers, said in a speech at the rally.

Two weeks ago, Russian officials informed the public here about his death, saying Max had been abused and given psychiatric drugs. No evidence was presented, but that description quickly became an emotional element of anti-American rhetoric and colored the explosive question of adoptions.

“The bruises disappeared, the drugs vanished, the adoptive parents have been cleared, the authorities backtracked,” Pavel Astakhov, Russia's ombudsman for children, wrote on his Twitter account Saturday. “The 3-year-old boy fell victim to big politics.”

Russia imposed a ban on adoptions by Americans in December, accusing U.S. parents of widespread mistreatment.

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